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Tyvans - Republic of Tyva


  • Principal investigator:
    Benjamin Grant Purzycki
  • Site founded: 2009

Site Details

Hailed informally as the geographic centre of Asia, the Tyva Republic (popluarly known as "Tuva") is the southernmost region in Siberia, just north of the western portion of Mongolia between the Sayan and Tangdy-Uula (Tannu-Ola) mountain ranges. Populated by a Tyvan ethnic majority of just over 80%, Tyva is roughly split between urban and rural residents. Urban Tyvans subsist primarily on a market-based economy while rural Tyvans herd sheep, goats, cattle, reindeer, and/or yaks. Most Tyvans identify as Buddhist, but also engage in religious practices associated with shamanism, animism, and totemism.


My research in Tyva largely seeks to make sense of the spatio-temporal distribution of religious practices devoted to local spirits. I use experimental and ethnographic methods from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, cognitive and cultural anthropology, and experimental behavioral economics. 

Selected Publications

Purzycki, B. G., and Holland, E. (2019). Buddha as a god: An empirical assessment. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 31(4-5): 347-375.

Lang, M., Purzycki, B.G., Apicella, C. L., Atkinson, Q., Bolyanatz, A., Cohen, E., Klocová, E. K., Handley, C., Lesorogol, C., Mathew, S., McNamara, R., Moya, C., Placek, C., Soler, M., Vardy, T., Weigel, J., Willard, A., Xygalatas, D., Norenzayan, A., Henrich, J. (2019). Moralistic gods, extended prosociality, and religious parochialism across 15 societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286(1898): 20190202.

Purzycki, B. G., and Lang, M. (2019). Identity fusion, outgroups, and sacrifice: A cross-cultural test. Cognition, 186: 1-6.

Purzycki, B. G., and Kulundary, V. (2018). Buddhism, identity, and class: Fairness and favoritism in the Tyva Republic. Religion, Brain and Behavior, 8(2): 205-226.

Purzycki, B. G., Henrich, J., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Baimel, A., Cohen, E., McNamara, R. A., Willard, A. K., Xygalatas, D., and Norenzayan, A. (2018). The evolution of religion and morality: A synthesis of ethnographic and experimental evidence from eight societies. Religion, Brain and Behavior, 8(2): 101-132.

Purzycki, B. G., Pisor, A. C., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Cohen, E., Henrich, J., McElreath, R., McNamara, R. A., Norenzayan, A., Willard, A. K., and Xygalatas, D. (2018). The cognitive and cultural foundations of moral behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(5): 490-501.

Purzycki, B. G., Ross, C. T., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Cohen, E., McNamara, R. A., Willard, A. K., Norenzayan, A., and Henrich, J. (2018). Material security, life history, and moralistic religions: A cross-cultural examination. PLOS One, 13(3): e0193856.

Purzycki, B. G. (2016). The Evolution of Gods’ Minds in the Tyva Republic. Current Anthropology, 57(S13): S88-S104.

Purzycki, B. G., et al. (2016). Moralistic Gods, Supernatural Punishment and the Expansion of Human Sociality. Nature, 530(7590): 327-330.

Purzycki, B. G. (2013). The Minds of Gods: A Comparative Study of Supernatural Agency. Cognition, 129(1): 163-179.

Purzycki, B. G. (2013). Toward a Cognitive Ecology of Religious Concepts: An Example from the Tyva Republic. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 1(1): 99-120.

Purzycki, B. G., and Arakchaa, T. (2013). Ritual Behavior and Trust in the Tyva Republic. Current Anthropology, 54(3): 381-388. Purzycki, B. G. (2010). Spirit Masters, Ritual Cairns, and the Adaptive Religious System in Tyva. Sibirica, 9(2): 21-47