United on Sunday: The effects of secular rituals on social bonding and affect

Sarah Jane Charles, Valerie van Mulukom, Jennifer Brown, Fraser Watts, Robin Dunbar, Miguel Farias

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)
    158 Downloads (Pure)


    Religious rituals are associated with health benefits, potentially produced via social bonding. It is unknown whether secular rituals similarly increase social bonding. We conducted a field study with individuals who celebrate secular rituals at Sunday Assemblies and compared them with participants attending Christian rituals. We assessed levels of social bonding and affect before and after the rituals. Results showed the increase in social bonding taking place in secular rituals is comparable to religious rituals. We also found that both sets of rituals increased positive affect and decreased negative affect, and that the change in positive affect predicted the change in social bonding observed. Together these results suggest that secular rituals might play a similar role to religious ones in fostering feelings of social connection and boosting positive affect.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0242546
    Number of pages17
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright: © 2021 Charles et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


    • Rituals
    • Social Bonding
    • Positive Affect
    • Secular
    • Religious

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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