Rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research has been primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Members of a common culture would find it easy to identify a ritual when they see one at work this is because they can share in the sense of special occasion that is created by the performance of a ritual. Usually all of the participants in a ritual share common beliefs or ideologies. People expect there to be rules as a condition of public ritual. There are certain signs and symbols that are always associated with particular rituals. In fact rituals tend to be highly symbolic, emphasizing the use of features such as special clothes, instruments, and gestures. There is usually a sense of history or tradition associated with the performance of a ritual. For a ritual to be successfully performed, the audience members must accept the role that is traditionally assigned to people in their position. For example, if someone left up and objected when a marriage celebrant says “if anyone knows any just cause why these two may not legally be married”......then the ritual is interrupted and its effectiveness is undermined.
Rituals play a significant role within communities. There are many ‘Rites of Passage' that people living in Western cultures tend to participate in throughout their lives. Through these rites of passage, participants make statements about who they are, what they think about the world, and what they think about other people within the society. For example Western culture has developed Rites of Passage for significant moments in people's lives such as birth, graduation, marriage, and death.