"Across 11 studies involving six countries from four continents (n=3,285), we extend insights from ﬁeld investigations in conﬂict zones to ofﬂine and online surveys to show that personal spiritual formidability—the conviction and immaterial resources (values, strengths of beliefs, character) of a person to ﬁght—is positively associated with the will to ﬁght and sacriﬁce for others. The physical formidability of groups in conﬂict has long been promoted as the primary factor in human decisions to ﬁght or ﬂee in times of conﬂict. Here, studies in Spain, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Morocco reveal that personal spiritual formidability, a construct distinct from religiosity, is more strongly associated with the willingness to ﬁght and make costly self-sacriﬁces for the group than physical formidability. A follow-on study among cadets of the USAir Force Academy further indicates that this effect is mediated by a stronger loyalty to the group, a ﬁnding replicated in a separate study with a European sample. The results demonstrate that personal spiritual formidability is a primary determinant of the will to ﬁght across cultures, and this individual-level factor, propelled by loyal bonds made with others, disposes citizens and combatants to ﬁght at great personal risk."
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Associated Minerva-funded project: Addressing Resilience in the Western Alliance Against Fragmentation: Willingness to Sacrifice and the Spiritual Dimension of Intergroup Cooperation and Conflict