Ritual Mimicry: A Path to Concept Comprehension

Biosemiotics 12 (1):175-188 (2019)
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Abstract

Mimicry in the animal kingdom mostly consists of two major types: by appearance or by behaviour. Although these are not the only ones, they will be the main focus of this article. We will develop two purposes of behavioural mimicry in animal death rituals : how it helps understanding a complex concept, and how it teaches to manage intense emotions. We will first show how ritual mimicry is a logical step in the evolution of appearance mimicry and why it can be a major advantage for the species that are able to use it. We will give a brief explanation of the importance of the notion of semiosis in behavioural mimicry. In a few words, we will also describe what a ritual is, how to recognize it and what its different features are. Then, for the first purpose, we will show how understanding what death is, or at least, what it is not – not sleep, nor illness – is difficult. This process starts through mimicry, which raises awareness in the young that a major event is occurring. For the second purpose, we will show how mimicry helps the young learn ritual behaviours and gestures which help distressed adults with managing their emotions in these situations. As such, mimicry is also a way to learn this emotional behaviour management, enabling the young – and future adult – to be less distressed when confronted with loss.

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