Dimitris Xygalatas


Dr. Xygalatas’ interests include ritual, cooperation, and the interaction between cognition and culture. His research focuses on the application of scientific methods and technologies in ethnographic field research. He has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius. Before coming to UConn, he held positions at the universities of Princeton, Aarhus, and Masaryk, where he served as Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion (LEVYNA). At UConn, he directs the Experimental Anthropology Lab, which develops methods and technologies for quantifying behavior in real-life settings. He is affiliated with the Cognitive Science Program, the Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.

Area focus

Mauritius, Southern Europe


ANTH 1000 – Other People’s Worlds
ANTH 3098 – Religion and Mind
ANTH 3098 – Evolution and Cognition
ANTH 3250 – Cognitive Anthropology
ANTH 5305 – Experimental Anthropology
ANTH 5305 – Cognitive Approaches to Religion

Selected publications:

2013. With William McCorkle (eds.), Mental Culture: Classical Social theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion, London: Acumen.

2012. The Burning Saints: Cognition and Culture in the Fire-walking Rituals of the Anastenaria, London: Acumen.


Gervais, W., D. Xygalatas, R. McKay, M. van Elk, E. Buchtel, M. Aveyard, S. Schiavone, I. Dar-Nimrod, A. Svedholm-Häkkinen, T. Riekki, E. Kundtová-Klocová, J. Ramsay & J. Bulbulia (2017). Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists. Nature Human Behaviour 1(0151). doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0151

Lang, M., V. Bahna, J. Shaver, P. Reddish & D. Xygalatas (2017). Sync to Link: How Does Synchrony Promote Cooperation. Biological Psychology 127:191-197

Xygalatas, D., Kotherová, S., Maňo, P., Kundt, R., Cigán, J., Kundtová Klocová, E., & Lang. M. (2017). Big Gods in Small Places: The Random Allocation Game in Mauritius. Religion, Brain and Behavior. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2153599X.2016.1267033

Pazhoohi, F., M Lang, D. Xygalatas & K. Grammer (2016). Religious veiling as a mate-guarding strategy: effects of environmental pressures on cultural practices, Evolutionary Psychological Science 3(2): 118–124

Xygalatas, D. & M. Lang (2016). Prosociality and Religion. In N. Kasumi Clements (ed). Mental Religion. Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks. Macmillan, 119-133.

Purzycki, B., A. Norenzayan, C. Apicella, Q. Atkinson, E. Cohen, R. McNamara, A. Willard, D. Xygalatas, & J. Henrich (2016). Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality, Nature 530, 327–330

Xygalatas, D., Kundtová Klocová, E., Cigán, J., Kundt, R., Maňo, P., Kotherová, S., Mitkidis, P. , Wallot, S. & Kanovsky, M. (2015). Location, location, location: Effects of cross-religious primes on prosocial behavior, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. DOI: 10.1080/10508619.2015.1097287

Lang, M., Krátký, J., Shaver, J., Jerotijević, D., & Xygalatas, D. (2015), Effects of Anxiety on Spontaneous Ritualized Behavior, Current Biology 25, 1-6

Fischer, R., Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., Reddish, P., Konvalinka, I., & Bulbulia, J. 2014. The fire-walker’s high: Affect and physiological responses in an extreme collective ritual. PLOS ONE 9(2): e88355

Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., Fischer, R., Reddish, P., Skewes, J., Geertz, A. W., Roepstorff, A. & Bulbulia, J. 2013. Extreme Rituals Promote Prosociality. Psychological Science 24(8): 1602– 1605

Bulbulia, J. D. Xygalatas, U. Schjødt, S. Fondevila, Ch. Sibley, & I. Konvalinka. 2013. Images From a Jointly-Arousing Collective Ritual Reveal Emotional Polarization, Frontiers in Psychology 4, article 960. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00960

Xygalatas, D., Schjoedt, U., Bulbulia, J., Konvalinka, I., Jegindø, E-M., Reddish, P., Geertz, A. W., & Roepstorff, A. 2013. Autobiographical Memory in a Fire-Walking Ritual. Journal of Cognition and Culture 13(1-2): 1-16.

D. Xygalatas, 2012. Effects of religious setting on cooperative behaviour. A case study from Mauritius, Religion, Brain and Behavior 3(2): 91-102

Xygalatas, D., I. Konvalinka, A. Roepstorff, and J. Bulbulia. 2011. Quantifying collective effervescence: Heart-rate dynamics at a fire-walking ritual, Communicative & Integrative Biology 4 (6): 735-738.

Konvalinka, I., D. Xygalatas, J. Bulbulia, U. Schjødt, E-M. Jegindø, S. Wallot, G. Van Orden, and A. Roepstorff. 2011. Synchronized arousal between performers and related spectators in a fire-walking ritual, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 108 (20): 8514-8519

Xygalatas, D. 2011. Ethnography, Historiography, and the Making of History in the Tradition of the Anastenaria, History and Anthropology 22 (1): 57-74.