Attachment and cooperation in religious groups : an example of a mechanism for cultural group selection

C.P. Weingarten, James Chisholm

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Bowlby proposed that “the psychological problem of ensuring persistent co‐operative behaviour” in groups was solved by emotional valuation of the group leader, group policy, or the group itself derived from the infant‐mother attachment relationship. He described how an emotionally valued relationship with a group leader, which is rooted in early attachments, can motivate an individual to cooperate for the benefit of the group. Bowlby’s insights, studies of attachment relationships with a deity, and the application of multilevel and group selection to cooperation in religious groups together show how attachment to a deity (supernatural agent) could be a mechanism for intragroup cooperation, including the within‐group cooperation required for group selection. As such, it links the attachment system, a pillar of human relationships and personality, to cooperation in groups. We also consider how the attachment system could be a basis for intragroup cooperation generally and compare this possibility to two other theories about human social cooperation, the “tribal social instincts” hypothesis and the evolution of “shared intentionality.”
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)759-785
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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