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Threat Enhances Aggressive Inclinations Among Devoted Actors Via Increase in Their Relative Physical Formidability

By Alexandra Vázquez, Lucía López-Rodríguez, Mercedes Martínez, Scott Atran, and Ángel Gómez

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Devoted actors—those who share sacred values with a group with which they are fused—are particularly willing to self-sacrifice to defend their group or values when they are threatened. Here, we explore whether they are also prone to aggressive inclinations toward those who endanger their group or convictions. To that end, we examined the effect of threat and the two components of the devoted actor framework—identity fusion and sacred values—on aggressive inclinations. These inclinations were registered with a videogame that allowed participants to destroy ingroup and outgroup symbols. Two experiments indicated that devoted actors reacted to threats to their ingroup and value by increasing aggressive inclinations against the rival group. This effect was apparently mediated by the perceived physical strength of the ingroup versus foes. Results suggest that devoted actors might be more prone to self-sacrifice, but also to attack those who threaten their group or values.

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Associated Minerva project:
Addressing Resilience in the Western Alliance Fragmentation: Willingness to Sacrifice and the Spiritual Dimension of Intergroup Cooperation and Conflict