Rituals are more than mere routines, they carry emotional significance, according to Harvard professor Michael Norton.

“One of the things that rituals do is they help us,” he said on Boston Public Radio on Wednesday.

He gave an example of how two families each form their own rituals independently, and they may not even realize the extent of those rituals until they come together to form a blended family.

“You've each got your own traditions, and then you come together in the same house and you got to sort out: 'Are we going to do yours?' 'Are we going to do mine?'” he explained. “Families really struggle with it. But one of the things they do is they often take some from one family, some from the other family — and just like my family — come up with some of their own that are theirs and that makes their family that family.”

In his latest work, "The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions," Norton, the Harold M. Brierly professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, explores the deep impact of rituals on human behavior and well-being.

Boston Public Radio listeners also chimed in, sharing their own rituals. Margo from New Hampshire said rituals have helped shape the bond she has with her granddaughters. She shared that they enjoy weekly dinners together on Fridays, and mentioned that they have a game where they compete to see who can point out specific street signs.

Responding to Margo's story, Norton emphasized the significance of seemingly mundane rituals, particularly in the lives of children. “The random things that we build in that have so much meaning, and especially for kids,” he said.

Expanding on familial bonds, he discussed how rituals often serve as a way for bringing relatives together. Norton described how he would ask people throughout his research if they were close to their extended family. The majority of the response was that they only saw extended family for special occasions — which are considered rituals.

“Sometimes people say , ‘If it weren't for weddings and funerals and holidays, why would I have gone and see my uncle or my cousins?’” he said.

“Rituals really bring family together, often in a way that's powerful.”