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News | Feb. 11, 2022

Minerva-funded researchers recent publication, "Spiritual over physical formidability determines willingness to fight and sacrifice through loyalty in cross-cultural populations"

By Toni DeVille

"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."

Click here to read full publication.

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