Why divination? A salient cultural attractor, an explanatory model, and some lessons for how to understand the generation of culture
Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and Psychology and Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory, Washington University in St. Louis
Divination is a good example of a cultural attractor – almost all human societies have some documented form of divination, a procedure that supposedly guarantees the truth of the statements it produces. I propose a model of the strategic interactions around divination that may explain why the practice is so widespread, with some unexpected commonalities. This is an opportunity to think about cultural evolution, which so far has produced good models of cultural consumption, leaving aside why people produce the kind of material that become culturally widespread.