Liturgical anthropology: a developmental perspective

Joshua Cockayne, Gideon Salter

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According to recent accounts of so called “liturgical anthropology,” human beings are ritual creatures shaped more by what they feel than what they think. This is because the liturgies that make up our daily lives orient our desires towards certain goals and visions of the good life. We seek to expand this vision of liturgical anthropology by offering a critique of a predominantly affective vision of human development in which liturgy shapes primarily what we love. Drawing insights from developmental psychology, we argue that affect and cognition are intertwined throughout development, each reinforcing the other. Instead of attempting to artificially separate cognition and affect, then, we offer a vision of liturgical anthropology that is holistic, paying attention to the ways in which both our desires and beliefs are shaped by participation in liturgies, whether these be religious or otherwise. Finally, we argue that the psychological concept of “joint attention” can provide a helpful focal point for establishing why liturgy and ritual is so formative for human development.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021


  • Affect
  • Anthropology
  • Cognition
  • Developmental psychology
  • Liturgy


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