Dimitris Xygalatas

Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor



Ph.D., 2007, Queens University Belfast


Dr. Xygalatas is a cognitive anthropologist whose research combines laboratory and field methods to study human interaction in real-life settings. He has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius, and continues to go to the field each year. 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, the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.

Learn more about Dr. Xygalatas on his personal website.

Research Interests

Ritual, sports, cooperation, the interaction between cognition and culture, and the impact of cultural practices on psychophysiological wellbeing.



  • ANTH 3090. Interdisciplinary Ethnography Field School
  • ANTH 3250. Cognitive Anthropology
  • ANTH 3405. Religion and Mind

Graduate Seminars

  • ANTH 5331. Cognitive Science of Religion
  • ANTH 5333. Evolution and Cognition
  • ANTH 5341. Analysis of Rituals
  • COGS 5001. Cognitive Science Proseminar



Xygalatas, D. (2022). Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living. London: Pro- file Books; New York: Little Brown Spark.

Xygalatas, D. (2012). The Burning Saints: Cognition and Culture in the Fire-walking Rituals of the Anastenaria. London: Routledge.

Roubekas, N., D. Xygalatas, L. H. Martin & D. Wiebe (eds.) (forthcoming 2023). Studying religiom, past and present: essays in honor of Panayotis Pachis. Bloomsbury.

Geertz, A. W., Ambasciano, L., Eidinow, E., Martin, L. H., Nielbo, K. L., Roubekas, N. P., van Mu- lukom, V., & Xygalatas, D. (eds.) (2022). Studying the religious mind: Methodology in the cognitive science of religion. London: Equinox.

Xygalatas, D. & W. McCorkle (eds.) (2013). Mental Culture: Classical Social theory and the Cognitive Science of Religion. London: Routledge.

Pachis, P. & D. Xygalatas (eds.) (2004). Essays on the Study of Religion, Festschrift in honour of G. Ziakas. Vanias Press.

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

Selected Articles

Xygalatas, D., P. Maňo, R. Kundt & E. Kundtová-Klocová (2022). Rituals as signals of mate quality. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology 3: 100048

Baranowski-Pinto, G. Profeta, V. Newson, M., Whitehouse, H. & Xygalatas, D (2022). Being in a crowd bonds people via physiological synchrony. Nature Scientific Reports 12: 613

Xygalatas, D., Maňo, P., & Baranowski-Pinto, G. (2021). Ritualization increases the perceived efficacy of instrumental actions. Cognition 215, 104823

Xygalatas, D., P. Maňo, V. Bahna, R. Kundt, E. Kundtová-Klocová, M. Lang & J. Shaver (2021). Social inequality and signaling in a costly ritual. Evolution and Human Behavior 42: 524–533

Xygalatas, D., S. Khan, M. Lang, R. Kundt, E. Kundtová-Klocová, J. Krátký & J. Shaver (2019). Effects of extreme ritual practices on health and well-being. Current Anthropology 60(5): 699-707

Lang, M., V. Bahna, J. Shaver, P. Reddish & D. Xygalatas (2017). Sync to link: Endorphin-mediated synchrony effects on cooperation. Biological Psychology 127:191-197

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

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

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

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

Konvalinka, I., Xygalatas, D., Bulbulia, J., Schjødt, U., Jegindø, E., Wallot, S., Van Orden, G. & Roepstorff, A. (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

Dimitris Xygalatas
Contact Information
Office LocationBeach Hall (BCH) 432
LinkExperimental Anthropology Lab