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Abstract

Identity fusion is a visceral sense of “oneness” with a group and its individual members that motivates personally costly, pro-group behaviors. Past approaches, most notably social identity theory, have assumed that when people align with groups, the group category eclipses both the personal self and the relationships among individual group members. Also, social identity researchers have focused on intergroup processes. In contrast, fusion theory emphasizes the role of the personal self and intragroup relationships in extreme pro-group action. Strongly fused persons are especially inclined to endorse pro-group action when either the personal or the social self is salient, when physiological arousal is high, or when they perceive that group members share essential qualities (e.g., genes, core values) with one another. Moreover, feelings of personal agency, perceptions of family-like ties to other group members, and a sense of group-related invulnerability mediate the link between identity fusion and pro-group behaviors. All of these effects emerged while controlling for identification, which predicted the effects weakly if at all. By specifying some of the key antecedents of extreme pro-group behavior as well as the role of the personal self and familial ties in such behavior, the identity-fusion approach fills an important explanatory gap left largely unaddressed by earlier perspectives.
Current Directions in Psychological
Science
2015, Vol. 24(1) 52 –57
© The Author(s) 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/0963721414551363
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More than a century ago, Le Bon (1895/1947) contended
that group membership can be the enemy of personal
agency. In his account of crowd behavior, the collective
imposes a “group mind” on members and reduces them
to puppets who robotically follow its directives. The
identity-fusion approach (Swann, Jetten, Gómez,
Whitehouse, & Bastian, 2012) highlights a very different
scenario. Upon developing a visceral feeling of “oneness”
with the group, strongly fused persons retain their sense
of personal agency and channel it into pro-group action.
Further, rather than focusing on the collective at the
expense of fellow group members, strongly fused per-
sons regard other group members as “family” and derive
a sense of invulnerability from them.
Together, feelings of personal agency and familial ties
to other group members are remarkably strong motiva-
tors of pro-group action. Indeed, dozens of studies have
shown that measures of identity fusion outperform alter-
native measures of group alignment (e.g., “identifica-
tion”) in predicting endorsement of extreme pro-group
behaviors, including even sacrificing one’s own life. In
this article, we focus on the nature and consequences of
identity fusion and probe into the psychological mecha-
nisms that mediate its effects.
Nature of Identity Fusion
Theorists have discussed many distinct forms of align-
ment with groups over the years (see Swann etal., 2012).
Of these predecessors to identity fusion, the best under-
stood is group identification, a construct that social iden-
tity theorists developed to explain intergroup relations
(Hornsey, 2008; Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, Hogg,
Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987). Like fusion, identifi-
cation refers to an alignment of people’s personal identi-
ties (i.e., aspects of self that make people unique) and
social identities (i.e., aspects of self that align them with
groups—e.g., being Jewish or Catholic). As identification
551363CDPXXX10.1177/0963721414551363Swann, BuhrmesterIdentity Fusion
research-article2014
Corresponding Author:
William B. Swann Jr., Department of Psychology, University of Texas
at Austin, 1 University Station, A8000, 108 E. Dean Keeton St., Austin,
TX 78712-0187
E-mail: swann@utexas.edu
Identity Fusion
William B. Swann Jr.1 and Michael D. Buhrmester2,3
1Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin; 2Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary
Anthropology, University of Oxford; and 3Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University Belfast
Abstract
Identity fusion is a visceral sense of “oneness” with a group and its individual members that motivates personally costly,
pro-group behaviors. Past approaches, most notably social identity theory, have assumed that when people align with
groups, the group category eclipses both the personal self and the relationships among individual group members.
Also, social identity researchers have focused on intergroup processes. In contrast, fusion theory emphasizes the role
of the personal self and intragroup relationships in extreme pro-group action. Strongly fused persons are especially
inclined to endorse pro-group action when either the personal or the social self is salient, when physiological arousal
is high, or when they perceive that group members share essential qualities (e.g., genes, core values) with one
another. Moreover, feelings of personal agency, perceptions of family-like ties to other group members, and a sense
of group-related invulnerability mediate the link between identity fusion and pro-group behaviors. All of these effects
emerged while controlling for identification, which predicted the effects weakly if at all. By specifying some of the key
antecedents of extreme pro-group behavior as well as the role of the personal self and familial ties in such behavior,
the identity-fusion approach fills an important explanatory gap left largely unaddressed by earlier perspectives.
Keywords
identity fusion, social identity, self-sacrifice, extreme behavior
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Identity Fusion 53
increases, however, the personal self fades into the back-
ground and people come to see themselves as exemplify-
ing qualities of the collective category. This shift
encourages them to adopt prototypical behaviors, such
as favoring the in-group over the out-group (e.g., Turner
etal., 1987). In contrast, although strongly fused persons
align themselves with the collective, they nevertheless
retain an agentic personal self and cultivate close ties to
fellow group members as well as to the collective cate-
gory. Evidence that identification and fusion are distinct
constructs has come from demonstrations that items from
scales measuring the two constructs load on separate fac-
tors in factor analyses (Gómez et al., 2011; see also
Buhrmester et al., 2012) and that fused persons and
highly identified persons respond very differently to con-
textual manipulations, such as arousal and threats to the
personal or social self (Gómez et al., 2011; Swann,
Gómez, Dovidio, Hart, & Jetten, 2010; Swann, Gómez,
Seyle, Morales, & Huici, 2009).
We hypothesized that fusion would be an especially
potent predictor of extreme sacrifices, such as risking
one’s life for the group. For example, in 2011, we studied
combatants in the Libyan revolution against Gaddafi
(Whitehouse, McQuinn, Buhrmester, & Swann, 2014). We
discovered that relative to militiamen who provided
logistical support, those who chose to engage in frontline
combat reported feeling more fused to their militia than
to their own families. These findings are consistent with
our assumption that identity fusion encourages people to
put themselves in harm’s way for the good of the group
(although it could also be that engaging in frontline com-
bat fostered fusion with the group).
Recognizing that it is rare to study people who are
actively engaged in warfare, we also developed ways of
measuring the propensity to self-sacrifice. One such
measure is a 7-item self-report measure of intentions to
fight and die on behalf of one’s group (Gómez etal.,
2011). As shown in Figure 1, fusion robustly predicted
responses to the fight-and-die measure (controlling for
identification) in 11 countries spanning six continents
(Swann, Buhrmester, etal., 2014).
Others have developed moral dilemmas based on the
classic trolley dilemma (Foot, 1967). In a prototypical
trolley dilemma, participants imagine that they are stand-
ing on a bridge overlooking a set of train tracks. On the
tracks below, they see that five countrymen are imperiled
by a rapidly approaching train. Participants must choose
between (a) standing idly by as their compatriots are
killed or (b) jumping to their deaths, causing the train to
stop before crushing their compatriots (Swann, Gómez,
Dovidio, etal., 2010). Responses to this dilemma provide
converging evidence that strongly fused persons are
especially apt to endorse sacrificing their lives for fellow
in-group members (but not out-group members). We
recently replicated these effects with additional dilemmas
(Swann, Gómez, Buhrmester, etal., 2014).
Still other researchers have developed measures of
less extreme, but nevertheless personally costly, pro-
group actions. In one study, strongly fused Spaniards
were especially likely to donate personal funds to sup-
port financially distressed group members (Swann,
Gómez, Huici, Morales, & Hixon, 2010). Similarly, strongly
fused persons have been shown to provide social or
emotional support to fellow group members. In one
cross-cultural investigation, for example, Canadian,
Chinese, and Indian participants played a resource-
allocation computer game (Semnani-Azad, Sycara, &
Lewis, 2012). Participants who were strongly fused with
their nation allocated more resources to their compatriots
and made fewer selfish requests for aid than did weakly
fused players.
Principles of identity fusion
Conceptual analysis has identified four unique principles
of identity fusion (Swann et al., 2012). The agentic-
personal-self principle suggests that the personal self can
motivate pro-group behavior by channeling personal
agency into pro-group action (see also Haggard &
Tsakiris, 2009, Swann etal., 2012). To test the idea that
heightened arousal fosters feelings of personal agency
and thus increases endorsement of extreme pro-group
behaviors, researchers experimentally increased physio-
logical arousal through physical exercise. Consistent with
their predictions, increased arousal bolstered endorse-
ment of extreme pro-group behaviors (e.g., sacrificing
one’s life for the group) among strongly fused individuals
but not among weakly fused or highly identified ones
(Gómez etal., 2011; Swann, Gómez, Huici, etal., 2010;
Swann et al., 2009). Furthermore, in several studies,
researchers have assessed participants’ self-reported feel-
ings of group-directed agency (e.g., “I am responsible for
my group’s actions”). Perceptions of personal agency
mediated the links between fusion and pro-group behav-
ior (Gómez etal., 2011; Swann etal., 2009). Such findings
offer converging evidence for the causal role of the per-
sonal self in the pro-group actions of strongly fused
persons.
The identity-synergy principle suggests that the per-
sonal and social identities of highly fused persons may
combine synergistically to motivate extreme pro-group
behavior. If so, it should be possible to amplify the pro-
group behavior of highly fused persons by activating
either their personal or their social self-views. Consistent
with this prediction, activating highly fused persons’ per-
sonal selves (by asking them how they would react to a
threat to their personal well-being) or their social selves
(by asking them how they would react to a threat to their
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54 Swann, Buhrmester
group) increased their subsequent endorsement of sacri-
fices for the group (Gómez et al., 2011; Swann et al.,
2009). In contrast, highly identified participants displayed
more pro-group behavior in response to activating their
social selves but not their personal selves.
The relational-ties principle recognizes that strongly
fused persons care about individual members of the
group as well as the abstract collective. For this reason,
strongly fused persons should be especially inclined to
endorse sacrificing their own lives to save the lives of
individual members of the group (e.g., when imperiled
by a runaway trolley). In over a dozen studies, fusion
predicted self-sacrifice, but identification did not (Swann,
Gómez, et al., 2014; Swann, Gómez, Dovidio, et al.,
2010). Further support for the relational-ties principle
comes from two forms of evidence. First, when strongly
fused participants learned that group members might be
killed in a hypothetical trolley dilemma, they became
upset, and these emotional reactions predicted subse-
quent endorsement of self-sacrifice for the group (Swann,
Gómez, et al., 2014). Second, self-reported feelings of
familial connection to other group members statistically
mediated links between fusion and pro-group outcomes
(Buhrmester, Fraser, Lanman, Whitehouse, & Swann, in
press; Swann, Buhrmester, et al., 2014). Apparently,
highly fused persons view their group members as fictive
family members, and these perceptions motivate them to
take extreme actions on the behalf of these individuals.
The irrevocability principle indicates that once people
become highly fused with a group, their feelings of fusion
will be supported not only by their alignment with the
collective but also by their personal selves and ties to
0
1
2
3
4
5
India
.33
China
.32
Indonesia
.36
United
States
.59
Australia
.43
South
Africa
.38
Poland
.61
Chile
.48
Germany
.54
Spain
.61
Japan
.45
Fusion
Willingness to Fight and Die
Endorsement of Extreme Pro-Group Behaviors
Fig. 1. Results from Study 1 of Swann, Buhrmester, etal., 2014, showing that identity fusion with one’s country predicts endorsement of
extreme pro-group behaviors. The number appearing under each country name refers to the correlation (r) between fusion with country
and endorsement of extreme behavior for the country (all ps < .001). Adapted from “What Makes a Group Worth Dying For? Identity Fusion
Fosters Perception of Familial Ties, Promoting Self-Sacrifice,” by W. B. Swann Jr., M. Buhrmester, Á. Gómez, J. Jetten, B. Bastian, A. Vázquez,
. . . and A. Zhang, 2014, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106, p. 916. Copyright 2014 by the American Psychological Association.
Adapted with permission.
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Identity Fusion 55
other group members. As a result, once strongly fused,
people will tend to remain fused. Support for this hypoth-
esis comes from several studies in which researchers had
participants complete the fusion scale developed by
Gómez etal. (2011) once and then again up to 18 months
later. Strongly fused participants (i.e., those scoring in the
upper tertile) displayed stable rank orderings over time,
whereas the scores of moderately or weakly fused par-
ticipants fluctuated. This evidence of “irrevocability”
among strongly fused persons puts them in sharp con-
trast to strongly identified persons, whose rank orderings
vary with changes in the context.
Local versus extended fusion and the
psychology of self-sacrifice
Evolutionary theory suggests that people should sacrifice
themselves for others when they share genes with those
others (Hamilton, 1964). This explains willingness to self-
sacrifice among members of small groups composed of
genetically related kin. Surprisingly, however, people also
make the ultimate sacrifice for genetically unrelated oth-
ers in large, diverse groups (e.g., nations, religious
groups). Why?
The distinction between local and extended fusion
provides a conceptual framework for understanding self-
sacrifice for genetic strangers. Whereas local fusion
occurs in relatively small, homogeneous groups in which
members have direct personal contact (e.g., work teams,
fraternities and sororities), extended fusion occurs in rel-
atively large groups consisting of many individuals with
whom the highly fused individual has no contact. Not
surprisingly, when asked if they would be more willing to
die to save members of their family versus members of
various large groups (e.g., nation or religious group), the
vast majority of people from all over the world endorsed
dying for members of their family (Swann, Buhrmester,
etal., 2014).
But if the perception of family ties motivates willing-
ness to self-sacrifice, why do people die for large groups
and abstract causes? One possibility is that extended
fusion entails the projection of relational ties onto geneti-
cally unrelated group members, thereby transforming
them into fictive kin (Atran, 2010). This projection pro-
cess could persuade highly fused persons to sacrifice
themselves for members of a heterogeneous group.
Recent research has identified key variables that may
trigger this projection process. In particular, when highly
fused people perceive that group members share core
characteristics, they are more likely to project the familial
ties commonly found in smaller groups onto the extended
group. Consistent with this reasoning, encouraging
strongly fused persons to focus on shared core character-
istics of their countrymen and -women increased their
endorsement of making extreme sacrifices for their coun-
try (Swann, Buhrmester, et al., 2014). This pattern
emerged whether the core characteristics were biological
(genes) or psychological (core values) and whether par-
ticipants were from China, India, the United States, or
Spain. Furthermore, priming shared core values increased
the feeling of familial ties among strongly fused group
members, which, in turn, mediated the influence of
fusion on endorsement of extreme sacrifices for the
country. These findings suggest that, for strongly fused
persons, recognizing that other group members share
core characteristics makes larger extended groups seem
“family like” and worth dying for.
Identity fusion and morality
Although most people can readily distinguish moral
actions from immoral ones, knowing what is right does
not guarantee doing what is right. This is particularly true
when the moral course of action involves the ultimate
self-sacrifice. In such instances, identity fusion may mod-
erate the propensity of people to translate their moral
beliefs into corresponding actions.
In one recent study, researchers had participants
respond to one of two moral dilemmas in which they
could save five members of their country by sacrificing
themselves (Swann, Gómez, etal., 2014). In both dilem-
mas, over 90% of participants acknowledged that the
moral course of action was to sacrifice themselves to save
the in-group members. Nevertheless, only those who
were strongly fused with the group were likely to endorse
self-sacrifice. Moreover, among strongly fused partici-
pants, the decision to sacrifice oneself was motivated by
emotional engagement with the group. In those relatively
rare instances in which weakly fused participants
endorsed self-sacrifice, it was for utilitarian rather than
emotional considerations. Finally, whereas strongly fused
persons knew immediately that self-sacrifice was the
right thing to do, weakly fused persons arrived at this
decision only by reflecting on the costs and benefits of
various courses of action.
These findings suggest that moral convictions are nec-
essary but not sufficient to motivate moral action. The
fabric of people’s social relationships—particularly their
feelings of fusion with fellow group members—may
often determine their willingness to make the ultimate
sacrifice.
Future Directions
Although recent research has provided some intriguing
insights into the nature of fusion and the processes that
link it to extreme behavior, much remains to be learned
about the construct. One general question involves the
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56 Swann, Buhrmester
causes of identity fusion. Whitehouse (2004) has reported
that some religious groups employ rituals that serve to
create fusion-like bonds within the group (see also Atran,
2010). Military boot camps, fraternity pledge weeks, and
gang initiations do much the same thing. Future research
should explore the mechanisms that underlie these
phenomena.
Another important next step will be to expand our
focus on combative outcomes of fusion (e.g., fighting and
dying for the group) to include noncombative outcomes
of fusion. One goal will be to identify the contextual and
personal variables that determine whether strongly fused
persons pursue the goals of the group through violent
versus peaceful activities. Such work will provide impor-
tant insights into the conditions under which identity
fusion has negative or positive social consequences. Here,
too, it may also prove fruitful to explore how divergent
levels of fusion versus identification may interact. For
instance, might highly identified but weakly fused mem-
bers disregard the well-being of individual group mem-
bers, endorsing violence and the sacrifice of in-group
members for the good of the collective? Evidence that
highly identified persons are no more likely than mini-
mally identified persons to endorse self-sacrifice in intra-
group versions of the trolley dilemma suggest so (Swann,
Gómez, etal., 2014; Swann, Gómez, Dovidio, etal., 2010).
In closing, we suggest that Le Bon (1895/1947) was
onto something important when he noted that people
are sometimes taken over by the “group mind.”
Nevertheless, we assert that some individuals become
enraptured with a group yet retain a strong personal self.
Such strongly fused persons subsequently deploy their
personal agency in the form of bold, pro-group action,
including even the ultimate sacrifice.
Recommended Reading
Swann, W. B., Jr., Buhrmester, M., Gómez, Á., Jetten, J., Bastian,
B., Vázquez, A., . . . Zhang, A. (2014). (See References).
Presents evidence for the universality of fusion effects as
well as the role of familial ties and perceptions of shared
essence in fusion effects.
Swann, W. B., Jr., Gómez, A., Buhrmester, M. D., López-
Rodríguez, L., Jiménez, J., & Vázquez, A. (2014). (See
References). Reports several studies examining the cogni-
tive and affective processes that underlie the decision to
endorse self-sacrifice for one’s group.
Swann, W. B., Jr., Gómez, A., Huici, C., Morales, F., & Hixon,
J.G. (2010). (See References). Reports several studies pro-
viding evidence that physical exercise amplifies willingness
to endorse fighting and dying for one’s group.
Swann, W. B., Jr., Gómez, A., Seyle, C., Morales, J. F., & Huici,
C. (2009). (See References). The first explication of the
identity-fusion construct and initial evidence for it.
Swann, W. B., Jr., Jetten, J., Gómez, Á., Whitehouse, H., &
Bastian, B. (2012). (See References). A formal exposition of
identity-fusion theory and its implications.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Funding
The research discussed here was made possible by support
from National Science Foundation Grant BCS-1124382 to
William B. Swann Jr. and postdoctoral support to Michael D.
Buhrmester through Economic and Social Research Council
Large Grant REF RES-060-25-0085 and John Templeton
Foundation Grant 37624.
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... Decades of research have revealed that the strength of people's group identities influences their cognitions and behaviors, producing outcomes ranging from motivated reasoning (1) to collective action (2) and violence (3). The rise of social media has led to an explosion of identity-based online communities, wherein people with shared identities (e.g. ...
... The group identity literature has a rich history. Since Tajfel introduced social identity theory in the 1970s, several approaches have illuminated the different features of group identity including activation of the social self (12), intragroup ties (3,13), uncertainty reduction (14), identity performance and engagement (15), grouplevel emotions (16), and so on. Because most of these features have been measured by relying on people's self-reports, we were particularly interested in finding which ones might be manifested in everyday language. ...
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To what degree can we determine people's connections with groups through the language they use? In recent years, large archives of behavioral data from social media communities have become available to social scientists, opening the possibility of tracking naturally occurring group identity processes. A feature of most digital groups is that they rely exclusively on the written word. Across 3 studies, we developed and validated a language-based metric of group identity strength and demonstrated its potential in tracking identity processes in online communities. In Studies 1a–1c, 873 people wrote about their connections to various groups (country, college, or religion). A total of 2 language markers of group identity strength were found: high affiliation (more words like we, togetherness) and low cognitive processing or questioning (fewer words like think, unsure). Using these markers, a language-based unquestioning affiliation index was developed and applied to in-class stream-of-consciousness essays of 2,161 college students (Study 2). Greater levels of unquestioning affiliation expressed in language predicted not only self-reported university identity but also students’ likelihood of remaining enrolled in college a year later. In Study 3, the index was applied to naturalistic Reddit conversations of 270,784 people in 2 online communities of supporters of the 2016 presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The index predicted how long people would remain in the group (3a) and revealed temporal shifts mirroring members’ joining and leaving of groups (3b). Together, the studies highlight the promise of a language-based approach for tracking and studying group identity processes in online groups.
... Endurer une expérience douloureuse oriente l'attention et rend saillants les éléments qui composent cette expérience (Craig, 2003 ;Eccleston & Crombez, 1999 Figure 14) (Swann et al., 2015 ;2012 (Segal et al., 2018). ...
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Se sentir rejeté ou isolé d'une interaction sociale est une situation particulièrement douloureuse et se traduit par un ensemble de réponses affectives et comportementales (Eisenberger et al., 2003 ; Williams, 2007, 2009). Tout comme la douleur physique nous alerterait des dommages tissulaires potentiels, la douleur sociale nous signalerait des dangers de l'isolement et viserait à orienter les comportements (Ferris et al., 2019). Alors que des enquêtes récentes ont montré que le partage de la douleur physique en groupe favorise les liens interpersonnels (Whitehouse et al., 2017), aucune étude expérimentale n'a évalué si le partage de l'exclusion sociale en groupe pouvait renforcer l’identification au groupe et limiter l’impact de l’exclusion sur les besoins psychologiques. Dans cette thèse, nous avons mené six études afin de tester cette hypothèse. Les principaux résultats observés avec des groupes minimaux ont montré que partager l’exclusion avec un membre de l’endogroupe renforce l’identification avec l’endogroupe (Études 1, 2 et 3), la proximité sociale avec celui-ci (Étude 3) mais ne limite l’impact négatif et les réponses psychophysiologiques (Étude 4). Les études menées avec des groupes réels ont montré qu’une discrimination perçue moindre était associée à une plus grande satisfaction des besoins psychologiques (Étude 5), sans répliquer les effets de l’exclusion sur l’identification et la satisfaction des besoins fondamentaux au sein d’un protocole d’exclusion différent (Étude 6). Ces résultats semblent montrer que partager un épisode d’exclusion en groupe augmente les réponses identitaires et permettent de souligner le rôle de la discrimination perçue dans le lien entre exclusion et bien-être.
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This study addresses the effects of separation-individuation processes and fanaticism levels of young adults on the emergence of aggressive behavior. The sample group consists of 377 young adults between 18 and 22 of age. The participants are asked to respond to the Separation-Individuation Test of Adolescence (SITA), Fanaticism Scale for Football Fans (FSFFF), and the Buss-Perry Aggression Scale (BPAS). Chi-square, Pearson Product-Moment correlation analysis, One-way ANOVA, and moderation analysis were used for the statistical analysis. The physical and verbal aggression scores of the males are higher than the female participants. The separation-individuation scores of female participants are higher than that of the male participants. The fanaticism levels and physical-verbal aggression, and anger of the participants are correlated positively. Finally, the separation-individuation level is observed to have moderating effect on the correlation between aggression and fanaticism. The findings show that the fanatical supporters carry their self-needs to the team-self due to the problems they experience in the process of separation from their parents while engaging in aggressive behaviors. Therefore, considering the separation processes of individuals with their parents in studies aimed at preventing aggressive behaviors due to fanaticism will increase the success of the studies. Keywords: Fanaticism, Separation-Individuation, Aggression, Young Adulthood.
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In the current study, we investigated the organization of autobiographical memory in view of the Living-in-History effect, which is visible when personal memory and historical memory become intertwined. We investigated how often participants dated their own personal recollections with reference to important historical events (such as the Fall of Communism). Furthermore, we also examined whether cultural life script events served as a prominent strategy to date personal memories in our sample of 35 participants ( M age = 69.76 years, SD = 8.26). This study failed to document the Living-in-History effect, as participants mentioned only few historical events of interest to this study when dating their personal memories. In addition, supporting the Cultural Life Script theory, participants employed culturally transmitted knowledge to navigate through their autobiographical memories. We conclude that for our sample, historically defined autobiographical memories mainly develop when the specific public events affect in a dramatic manner the individuals’ lives.
Chapter
With ‘discovery of self’ (Chap. 4), Homo sapiens was launched on a trajectory of genetic and cultural evolution (Chaps. 5 and 6) unlike any other in the history of life. Building on primitive instincts for survival and reproduction inherited from proto-humans (and shared with other animals), this evolutionary journey gave us adaptive motivations and behaviours—many of which are uniquely human—associated with Survival Drive (Chap. 8) and Sexual/Familial Drives (Chap. 7) (Box 9.1).
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Violent radicalization continues to be a global problem. One of the main proposals for understanding radicalization and support for political violence is based on social alienation as a trigger. That is, individuals who feel alienated from society try to get out of this situation by using violence, if necessary. However, social alienation alone is not enough to explain radicalization. Therefore, we propose that social alienation interacts with other factors to foster radicalization. Particularly, we propose that obsessive passion, an internal compulsion that leads a person to engage in an activity even when they should not, is one of the interacting factors. Following previous literature, we hypothesized that higher social alienation predicts support for political violence to a greater extent the higher the obsessive passion. To test this hypothesis , we performed two studies in which the cause of passion varied (religion: N = 652 and family: N = 873). Both studies assessed social alienation, harmonious and obsessive passion, and support for political violence. The results showed a significant increase in the effect of social alienation on support for political violence when obsessive passion was higher, even controlling by harmonious passion. These results highlight the importance of considering other variables related to social alienation that could facilitate radicalization processes, particularly maintaining an obsessive passion for a cause when one feels a social disconnection. The theoretical and practical implications of these results are discussed given their contributions to prevention based on work on feelings of social disconnection and harmonization of causes.
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This paper utilizes the recently developed Rigour and Transparency Reporting Standard as a framework for describing aspects of the use of data in an agent-based modelling (ABM) EmotiCon project studying emotional contagion during the COVID-19 pandemic. After briefly summarizing the role of the ABM in the wider EmotiCon project, we outline how we intend to utilize qualitative data from a natural language processing analysis of Twitter data and quantitative data from a nationally representative survey in model building. The presentation during the SSC 2021 will elaborate on the outcome of implementing the idea.
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Identity fusion—a visceral feeling of oneness with a group—is thought to result from the sharing of emotional, often dysphoric, experiences. In this pre-registered longitudinal study, we address the impact of flashbulb memories of learning about the outcome of the Brexit referendum on both identity fusion and social identification. As predicted, the visceral quality of people’s flashbulb memories had a transformative effect on personal identity via processes of personal reflection and this, in turn, led to identity fusion via perceived sharedness with the group. Sharing personally transformative memories in this way did not lead to social identification, suggesting that perceived sharedness is key to identity fusion but not to social identification. Understanding how emotional public events impact personal identities and how they produce peculiar forms of group alignment have important implications for explaining and managing societal threats such as polarization and forms of political and religious extremism.
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When tragedy strikes a group, only some group members characteristically rush to the aid of the victims. What motivates the altruism of these exceptional individuals? Here, we provide one set of answers based on data collected before and shortly after the 15 April 2013, Boston Marathon bombings. The results of three studies indicated that Americans who were strongly “fused” with their country were especially inclined to provide various forms of support to the bombing victims. Moreover, the degree to which participants reported perceiving fellow Americans as psychological kin statistically mediated links between fusion and pro-group outcomes. Together, these findings shed new light on relationships between personal and group identity, cognitive representations of group members, and personally costly, pro-group actions.
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People differ in their reactions to the outcomes of their group. Whereas some may revel in victory and mourn in defeat, others may internalize victory but distance themselves from defeat. Here, we sought to relate these divergent reactions to two forms of alignment with groups–identity fusion and group identification. Investigations of the 2008 elections in the United States and Spain revealed that people who were “fused” with their political party internalized both victory and defeat, but highly identified persons internalized only victory. We discuss how these findings bear on the conceptual distinctions between identity fusion and group identification.
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What motivates ordinary civilians to sacrifice their lives for revolutionary causes? We surveyed 179 Libyan revolutionaries during the 2011 conflict in Libya. These civilians-turned-fighters rejected Gaddafi's jamahiriyya (state of the masses) and formed highly cohesive fighting units typical of intense conflicts. Fighters reported high levels of "identity fusion"-visceral, family-like bonds between fighters and their battalions. Fusion of revolutionaries with their local battalions and their own families were extremely high, especially relative to Libyans who favored the revolution but did not join battalions. Additionally, frontline combatants were as strongly bonded to their battalion as they were to their own families, but battalion members who provided logistical support were more fused with their families than battalions. Together, these findings help illuminate the social bonds that seem to motivate combatants to risk their lives for the group during wartime.
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We sought to identify the mechanisms that cause strongly fused individuals (those who have a powerful, visceral feeling of oneness with the group) to make extreme sacrifices for their group. A large multinational study revealed a widespread tendency for fused individuals to endorse making extreme sacrifices for their country. Nevertheless, when asked which of several groups they were most inclined to die for, most participants favored relatively small groups, such as family, over a large and extended group, such as country (Study 1). To integrate these findings, we proposed that a common mechanism accounts for the willingness of fused people to die for smaller and larger groups. Specifically, when fused people perceive that group members share core characteristics, they are more likely to project familial ties common in smaller groups onto the extended group, and this enhances willingness to fight and die for the larger group. Consistent with this, encouraging fused persons to focus on shared core characteristics of members of their country increased their endorsement of making extreme sacrifices for their country. This pattern emerged whether the core characteristics were biological (Studies 2 and 3) or psychological (Studies 4-6) and whether participants were from China, India, the United States, or Spain. Further, priming shared core values increased the perception of familial ties among fused group members, which, in turn, mediated the influence of fusion on endorsement of extreme sacrifices for the country (Study 5). Study 6 replicated this moderated mediation effect whether the core characteristics were positive or negative. Apparently, for strongly fused persons, recognizing that other group members share core characteristics makes extended groups seem "family like" and worth dying for.
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Although most people acknowledge the moral virtue in sacrificing oneself to save others, few actually endorse self-sacrifice. Seven experiments explored the cognitive and emotional mechanisms that underlie such endorsements. Participants responded to 1 of 2 moral dilemmas in which they could save 5 members of their country only by sacrificing themselves. Over 90% of participants acknowledged that the moral course of action was to sacrifice oneself to save others (Experiment 1), yet only those who were strongly fused with the group preferentially endorsed self-sacrifice (Experiments 2-7). The presence of a concern with saving group members rather than the absence of a concern with self-preservation motivated strongly fused participants to endorse sacrificing themselves for the group (Experiment 3). Analyses of think aloud protocols suggested that saving others was motivated by emotional engagement with the group among strongly fused participants but by utilitarian concerns among weakly fused participants (Experiment 4). Hurrying participants' responses increased self-sacrifice among strongly fused participants but decreased self-sacrifice among weakly fused participants (Experiment 5). Priming the personal self increased endorsement of self-sacrifice among strongly fused participants but further reduced endorsement of self-sacrifice among weakly fused participants (Experiment 6). Strongly fused participants ignored utilitarian considerations, but weakly fused persons endorsed self-sacrifice more when it would save more people (Experiment 7). Apparently, the emotional engagement with the group experienced by strongly fused persons overrides the desire for self-preservation and compels them to translate their moral beliefs into self-sacrificial behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Conference Paper
Prior research shows variation in helping behavior across culture due to cultural differences in values, perceptions, and motivations [12]. Our study extends on past research by examining how culture and fusion with one's culture influences helping behavior (help request and help given) when interacting with a cooperative versus non-cooperative counterpart. Canadian, Chinese and Indian participants engaged in an intracultural dyadic interaction using a virtual decision making game, FireSim, where they had to protect their village and its assets from seasonal fires with the option of requesting help and/or providing help to a neighboring village (counterpart). The results illustrate that Canadians (individualists) were less influenced by the situation, as their helping behavior was not significantly affected by partner's helping behavior, compared to Chinese and Indian individuals (collectivists). Moreover, Canadians were less likely to request for help but overall received more help compared to individuals from collectivistic cultures. We also found that the more a person was fused with his or her culture, the more likely that individual would provide help, if partner was cooperative. Potential implications and further research for inter-cultural helping behavior is discussed.
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