Developmental / Cultural / Experimental Psychologist


Pre-Prints for research Under Review

Kapitány, R., Kavanagh, C., Buhrmester, M., Newson, M., & Whitehouse, H. (Under Review). Ritual, Identity Fusion, and the Inauguration of President Trump: A pseudo-experiment of Ritual Modes theory. Pre-Print Available.

The US Presidential Inauguration is a symbolic event which arouses significant emotional responses among diverse groups, and is of considerable significance to Americans’ personal and social identities. We argue that it qualifies as an Imagistic Ritual (Whitehouse, 2004); such ritual experiences are thought to produce identity fusion: a visceral sense of oneness with the group. The 2017 Inauguration of President Trump was a unique opportunity to examine how a large-scale naturalistic imagistic ritual influences the social identities of Americans who supported and opposed President Trump. We conducted a pre-registered 7-week longitudinal investigation among an online sample of Americans in order to examine how President Trump’s Inauguration influenced identity fusion. The inauguration generated flashbulb-like memories, and positive emotion directly influenced fusion. Both positive and negative emotion inspired self-reflection, but did not mediate this relationship. We discuss the implications of our findings for models linking group psychology and ritual modes theory

Kapitány, R.,Nelsen, N., Burdett, E., & Goldstein (In Prep). The Child’s Pantheon: Children’s Hierarchical Belief Structure in Real and Non-Real Figures. Pre-Print Available.

How nuanced is a child’s understanding of real, unreal, natural and supernatural figures? Do children regard some figures, like Santa Claus or an alien, as more real than others, like Princess Elsa or a unicorn? We asked 95 children (aged 2 - 11 years) and 56 adults ‘how real’ they believed 13 individual figures were. These 13 figures were categorized into five a priori groups based on 1) whether the figure was veridical, 2) whether children receive direct evidence of the figure’s existence, 3) whether children receive indirect evidence of the figure’s existence, 4) whether the figure was associated with specific behavioral rituals or norms, and 5) whether the figure was explicitly presented as fictional. The categories (and figures) included ‘Real People’ (a person known to the child, The Wiggles), ‘Cultural Figures’ (Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy), ‘Ambiguous Figures’ (Dinosaurs, Aliens), ‘Mythical Figures’ (unicorns, ghosts, dragons), and ‘Fictional Figures’ (Spongebob Squarepants, Princess Elsa, Peter Pan). A cluster analysis, based exclusively on children’s ‘realness’ scores, revealed a sensible grouping structure broadly in agreement with our hypotheses. Multilevel regressions revealed a sensible hierarchy of belief, and unique developmental trajectories for each category of figure, indicating a trend toward an ‘adult-like’ and veridical understanding of the world. We suggest that cultural rituals (such as putting out christmas trees, hunting for easter eggs, and hiding teeth under a pillow) associated with ‘Cultural Figures’ are a powerful and empirically under-researched factor in generating and sustaining in a child’s endorsement for a figure’s reality status.

Research that is In Prep and nearing submission.

Kapitány, R., Reindl,E., & Nielsen, M. (In Prep). An experimental investigation of supernatural oversight on children’s reproduction of ritualistic and overimitative behavior.