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Self-Sacrifice for a Cause: A Review and an Integrative Model

Self-Sacrifice for a Cause:
A Review and an
Integrative Model
Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Birga M. Schumpe,
Bhavna Menon, Joanna Conde Ng
and Noëmie Nociti
‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any
how’. – Friedrich Nietzsche
For thousands of years, theologians, philoso-
phers, and dramatists have attempted to offer
consolation for the inevitable tragedy that
awaits us all: death. Some believe in an after-
life; others prefer to enjoy life while it
lasts – but regardless of how we cope with
the truth, at some level, we are all preoccu-
pied by the coming of death, the moment
when the matter that constitutes our bodies
stops functioning. Suicide bombers unsettle
this firmly established belief by trampling on
the fundamental notion of self-preservation.
But how do they willingly walk into the jaws
of death? Surely, something must be wrong
with them.
In reality, self-sacrifice is commonplace
among living organisms. Even at the cellu-
lar level, bacteria are known to self-destruct
when attacked by a bacteriophage to prevent
parasite transmission to nearby relatives
(a process also known as ‘abortive infection’;
Fineran etal., 2009; O’Connor etal., 1999;
Refardt et al., 2013). The practice even
extends to the insect world, where many spe-
cies of ants and termites have perfected the
gruesome art of blowing themselves up –
long before terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda
and ISIS even existed. In a process known
as ‘autothysis’ (Maschwitz and Maschwitz,
1974), minor worker ants in the Camponotus
cylindricus complex can violently contract
their abdomens until their body walls split
open and compounds from the mandibular
gland are ejected onto the body and limbs
of the predator (Davidson etal., 2009, 2012;
Jones etal., 2004). Worker ants display this
behavior when defending their territory
(Davidson et al., 2012; Jones et al., 2004),
and termite species also use similar processes
for tunnel defense during raids (Bordereau
et al., 1997). Similarly, in a phenomenon
called ‘sting autotomy’, workers in many
honeybee and wasp species subject them-
selves to a slow death by pricking the skin
of predators with a well-developed barbed
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sting lancet. When a honeybee worker stings
a predator, the apparatus remains firmly fixed
in the skin tissue of the victim with these
barbs (Sakagami and Akahira, 1960). Other
self-sacrificing behaviors observed among
birds and mammals (e.g., squirrels, mon-
keys, and macaques) include alarm calling,
which attracts the attention of the predator to
the caller, reducing its own chances of sur-
vival while allowing others a quick escape
(Cheney and Seyfarth, 1985; Dunford, 1977;
Hollen and Radford, 2009). Although the
modes and mechanisms of self-sacrifice are
diverse, there is one common pattern that
underlies all – the sacrificing organism is
attempting to defend, protect, or empower its
group to ensure its survival.
Without a shadow of doubt, under remark-
able circumstances, humans can also muster
the requisite will to engage in self-sacrificial
behavior to protect a band of brothers, a
nation, or a cause in peril. However, there
are many reasons to believe that self-
sacrifice at the human level is far more
intricate than for many other organisms.
First, people can choose from a wide range
of self-sacrificial behaviors to support a
cause of their liking. All exact some sort of
cost, but some are clearly more mundane
than others, and few are life-threatening
decisions. Consequently, the study of self-
sacrifice cannot be limited to understand-
ing the small number of men and women
who spectacularly obliterate themselves for
different political or religious motives; our
analysis must be less granular and more
inclusive so that we may fully comprehend
these acts. Furthermore, unlike any other spe-
cies, humans are selective about the groups
with which they identify, and their proclivity
for a particular group may drastically change
over time, reflecting our social and cognitive
complexity and the fact that the willingness
to die for a specific group is reversible. As
such, there are many psychological forces
at play that compel individuals to engage
in cost-bearing behaviors. This brings the
question of the psychological process that
enables people to engage in self-sacrificial
behavior of varying intensities into the fore-
front: what are the characteristics of these
groups and ideologies for which individuals
are willing to risk life and limb?
In this chapter, we review recent progress
related to the psychology of self-sacrifice.
This chapter begins by defining what self-
sacrifice is as an object of study and how it is
conceptualized and measured as an individ-
ual difference. The notion of self-sacrifice
will then be situated among other related
constructs to emphasize its unique contribu-
tion to psychological science. Once its nomo-
logical network has been delimited, we
discuss several motivational components rel-
evant to self-sacrifice using the 3N model of
radicalization (Kruglanski et al., 2014b;
Webber and Kruglanski, 2016) as an integra-
tive framework. Finally, we review research
on the interpersonal dimension of self-sacrifice
and discuss potential research questions that
can be fruitfully probed in the future.
Self-sacrifice is defined as the psychological
readiness to suffer and die for a cause
(Bélanger etal., 2014). A breakdown of this
definition indicates that self-sacrifice has a
motivational component (i.e., readiness), it
involves a cost (e.g., suffering, death), and it
has an ideological component (e.g., a cause).
The construct of self-sacrifice is thus an indi-
vidual difference, a trait relatively stable
across time (Bélanger etal., 2014), which –
like most psychological constructs – can
momentarily fluctuate following short-lived
experimental inductions (Dugas etal., 2016;
see also Kruglanski and Sheveland, 2012).
It is also important to underscore that the
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 467
willingness to self-sacrifice does not equate
wanting to die; it rather reflects people’s
disposition to do so if necessary. Because the
willingness to self-sacrifice can be situation-
ally induced and is not associated with psy-
chological distress, we posit that self-sacrifice
is not a construct that is in the realm of
abnormal psychology. Given this definition,
self-sacrifice and the concept of martyrdom
are considered functionally equivalent and
The study of human motivation is facilitated
by mapping out people’s mental representa-
tion of goals and their respective means of
attainment. One approach that is particularly
useful for this exercise is goal-systems
theory (Kruglanski et al., 2002), which
posits that goals are knowledge structures
organized into associative networks (see also
Anderson, 1983; Anderson et al., 2004).
From this vantage point, the theory proposes
three means–goal configurations that have
unique psychological properties and impli-
cations for goal-pursuit: (1) means that serve
a single purpose (unifinal means), (2) means
that concomitantly serve multiple goals
(multifinal means), and (3) means that serve
a single goal but are detrimental to alterna-
tive goals (counterfinal means; for a review,
see Kruglanski et al., 2015a). In line with
this nomenclature, engaging in self-sacrifice
is quintessentially counterfinal, as it entails
engaging in an activity (e.g., detonating a
bomb belt) to attain a focal goal (e.g., fur-
thering one’s ideological cause) at the
expense of an alternative goal (e.g., one’s
life). The same can be said about less
extreme forms of self-sacrifice, such as
going on a hunger strike, breaking the law,
or donating money to an organization, if
these behaviors are pursued in the further-
ance of an ideological cause.
Why would anyone choose to perform an
activity knowing that it would undermine
the pursuit of other goals? The research
has revealed that part of the answer lies in
the fact that the costs associated with coun-
terfinal means give them the appearance of
being particularly effective or instrumental
in attaining the focal goal they purportedly
serve (Bélanger etal., 2016). In a series of
experiments, Schumpe etal. (2017) demon-
strated that the greater the perceived sacrifice
is (e.g., pain, cost, effort), the greater the per-
ceived means’ instrumentality is for the goal.
This ‘no pain, no gain’ type of heuristic was
demonstrated to be stronger for individuals
who are highly committed to both the focal
and alternative goal. The implications of
these findings for political activism are par-
ticularly interesting. For example, by study-
ing a group of environmentalists, Schumpe
and Bélanger (2017) revealed that extreme
forms of activism – such as risky or illegal
activities – were perceived as more effec-
tive in advancing the environmental cause
because they were perceived as detrimental
to the pursuit of other goals (e.g., avoiding
being in harm’s way).
Because counterfinal means appear to
maximize the expectancy of goal achieve-
ment, sacrificing important life domains
becomes particularly alluring when a goal
appears out of reach. Bélanger etal. (2016)
found support for this proposition by hav-
ing participants evaluate the effectiveness
of different means related to the pursuit of
academic and romantic goals. Counterfinal
means – such as neglecting sleep to study or
neglecting one’s friends to spend time with
one’s partner – were consistently shown to
be preferred over other types of means for
goal pursuit when participants were uncer-
tain about reaching their focal goal. Hence,
as the saying goes, sometimes the ‘end justi-
fies the means’, and people willingly sacri-
fice objects of value to reach a goal that is
considered important. Consistent with this
perspective, Schumpe and Bélanger (2017)
surveyed hundreds of environmentalists
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to gauge their willingness to self-sacrifice
to protect the environment: the more they
believed their cause was unlikely to succeed,
the greater their motivation was to jump into
the fray and risk life and limb for the cause.
Further experiments revealed that making
sacrifices increased people’s commitment
toward the cause; this observation is consist-
ent with Bem’s (1972) self-perception the-
ory, which stipulates that ‘individuals come
to ‘know’ their own attitudes, emotions, and
other internal states partially by inferring
them from observations of their own overt
behavior and/or the circumstances in which
this behavior occurs’ (p. 1). In that regard,
when the sacrifice is costlier, the commitment
toward the cause and the intention of engag-
ing in further sacrifice is stronger. Although
preliminary in nature, these findings are
indicative of a possible self-reinforcing cycle
that can spiral out of control and ultimately
produce detrimental outcomes.
The concept of self-sacrifice bears some
resemblance to many other psychological
constructs. Thus, it is worth positioning this
construct to underscore its unique properties.
Again, a goal-systemic analysis appears to be
useful in drawing these distinctions.
Goal Commitment
Self-sacrifice is intimately related to goal
commitment, which is commonly defined as
‘one’s attachment to or determination to
reach a goal’ (Locke et al., 1988, p. 24).
Indeed, it would be troubling to find indi-
viduals contemplating death for a cause with-
out attributing considerable importance to it.
However, goal commitment is relatively non-
specific about concrete behavior (i.e., means)
and generally involves persistence and the
extension of effort (Wright et al., 1994).
Conversely, martyrdom is more specific, as it
uniquely relates to sacrificial behaviors
(i.e., means neglecting alternative goals) and
is performed with the intention of advancing
a cause.
Another construct with which self-sacrifice
shares similarities is that of altruism. The
concept of altruism has long been discussed
across almost all known fields, from theol-
ogy to biology (Post etal., 2002), and there
is still much debate related to its definition.
We consider two definitions taken from the
psychological literature and cover them in
turn. The first is from Bar-Tal and Raviv
(1982): the authors define altruism as a ‘vol-
untary and intentional behavior carried out
for its own end to benefit a person, as a result
of moral conviction in justice, and without
expectations for external rewards’ (p. 199).
The concept of self-sacrifice herein described
contrasts with this definition in that self-
sacrifice can be pursued for convictions unre-
lated to justice and with the expectation of
reward such as praise and group recognition.
The second definition is from Krebs and
Miller (1985), who argue that genuine altru-
ism ‘involves the capacity in humans to
behave in a manner that enhances the net
welfare of another at some net cost to them-
selves’ (p. 2). This is connected to the idea
that altruism is strongly related to prosocial
behavior (e.g., Batson and Shaw, 1991).
However, this is not necessarily the case with
sacrifice as it can promote peaceful or harm-
ful behavior equally.
Furthermore, we note that, in psychology,
altruism tends to be defined as a personality
trait affecting a large spectrum of helping
behaviors (Batson, 1987; Eisenberg, 1986;
Rushton et al., 1981; for a discussion, see
Carlo et al., 1991). Both altruism and self-
sacrifice are conceptually related to notions
of self-effacement and action on behalf of
others; however, self-sacrifice promotes
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 469
self-effacement for a specific cause. Notice
also that altruism does not necessarily entail
relinquishing objects of high value (e.g.,
well-being, wealth), whereas this is part and
parcel of our self-sacrifice definition.
Self-sacrifice also bears some similarities
with the concept of egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism is the belief that all individu-
als have the right to equal opportunities and
treatment (Monteith and Walters, 1998), such
that an egalitarian is defined as ‘anyone who
cares at all about equality over and above the
extent it promotes other ideals’ (Temkin,
1993, p. 7). Accordingly, someone genuinely
concerned about equality may make impor-
tant sacrifices to help others in need, such as
foregoing privileges and neglecting impor-
tant life domains to foster equality. Self-
sacrifice, as we have defined it here, is not
always pursued to attain equality. In fact,
self-sacrifice is often a means to benefit one’s
group over another to make it more competi-
tive. Even in relation to one’s own group,
self-sacrifice could result in the person
becoming disadvantaged compared to his or
her counterparts.
The scientific examination of any construct
requires proper operationalization and meas-
urement. Self-sacrifice is no exception;
below, we offer a selective review of methods
that have been used in prior works to meas-
ure self-sacrifice.
Explicit Measure:
The Self-Sacrifice Scale
The Self-Sacrifice Scale (Bélanger et al.,
2014) is a self-report measure designed to
measure individuals’ disposition to forfeit
objects of high value (e.g., wealth, relation-
ships, life) to support an ideological cause.
The participants are first prompted to write
down a cause that is important to them. The
participants then respond to the ten items on
the scale, five of which are reverse-scored.
Sample items include statements such as,
‘I would be prepared to endure intense suf-
fering if it meant defending an important
cause’ and ‘I would be ready to give my life
for a cause that is extremely dear to me’.
The participants rate each item on a seven-
point scale ranging from 1 (Do not agree at
all) to 7 (Very strongly agree). The Self-
Sacrifice Scale has been translated in numer-
ous languages (Arabic, French, Hebrew,
Italian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Tamil), and
its psychometric properties have been vali-
dated with samples of terrorists (i.e., Tamil
Tigers and jihadists), activists (e.g., the
Black Lives Matter movement, feminists,
environmentalists), and ordinary people,
making the Self-Sacrifice Scale uniquely
positioned to empirically examine a vast
repertoire of cognitive, emotional, and
behavioral phenomena.
Using the Self-Sacrifice Scale, researchers
(Bélanger et al., 2014) have recently made
significant progress in mapping the nomolog-
ical network of self-sacrifice. Consistent with
our conceptual analysis, self-sacrifice and
altruism have been found to be positively cor-
related, albeit weakly (r = 0.20), supporting
the notion that both constructs are distinct.
Believing in God also tends to be positively
related to self-sacrifice, which is not surpris-
ing given that the vast majority of religious
participants we have surveyed adhered to an
Abrahamic religion (i.e., Christianity, Islam,
Judaism), where the theme of self-sacrifice is
recurrent (e.g., Jesus Christ on the cross, sha-
hid, kedoshim).
The Self-Sacrifice Scale has also been use-
ful in drawing important theoretical insights.
For example, one of the strongest predictors
of self-sacrifice is the extent to which an indi-
vidual believes that a cause is important to
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them (Bélanger et al., 2014). Although this
result is unsurprising, it is worth noting that
having a positive attitude toward a given
cause was found to be insufficient in predict-
ing self-sacrifice for a cause. The latter find-
ing fits well with recent motivation theories
on the distinction between liking and want-
ing in goal pursuit (Kruglanski etal., 2015c).
However, more fundamentally, this finding
provides some evidence that self-sacrifice
is related to the internalization of a cause in
people’s identities, which may explain why
identity-related concepts such as harmoni-
ous and obsessive passion (Bélanger etal.,
2013a, 2013b; Vallerand et al., 2003) are
both positively associated with self-sacrifice
(Bélanger et al., 2014). Understanding the
process through which the ideological cause
becomes deep-seated in the self is a critical
question we address at a later stage.
Another meaningful piece of information
taken from this research is the absence of
correlation between the Self-Sacrifice Scale
and different criteria of psychopathology,
such as depression, suicide ideation, and
psychopathy (Bélanger etal., 2014). Indeed,
one perennial question in terrorism studies
is the connection between mental illness and
violent extremism (e.g., Weatherston and
Moran, 2003). For many years, a common
view was that to commit these gruesome
acts of the lowest nature, violent extremists
had to be deranged lunatics. This jaundiced
view of a terrorist’s psyche has drastically
changed over the years, and most scholars
today would admit that suicide terrorism
bears no systematic relationship to psycho-
pathology (e.g., Atran, 2003; Merari, 2010;
Post etal., 2009; cf. Lankford, 2014). Data
collected using the Self-Sacrifice Scale
support this perspective. Furthermore,
in addressing the notion of a ‘terrorist’s
profile’ – which is another major question
in terrorism studies – no zero-order correla-
tions were found between the Self-Sacrifice
Scale and the Big Five personality traits
(Bélanger etal., 2014). If anything, our data
suggest that, in some samples, men tend to
report greater willingness to self-sacrifice
for a cause. Preliminary evidence also sug-
gests that the relationship between gender
and self-sacrifice is mediated by sensation-
seeking (Bélanger and Schumpe, 2017).
One’s place on the Self-Sacrifice Scale
also influences a range of interpersonal and
moral decisions by dictating who is right and
wrong on certain issues. For example, self-
sacrifice also predicts the extent to which
people are prone to feel angry and lack
sympathy toward people who do not respect
their cause. Moreover, a positive relationship
was found between one’s readiness to self-
sacrifice and perceiving other people self-
sacrificing for the same cause as righteous
and heroic. This finding resonates well with
prior findings that people who share similar
goals and values (e.g., in-group members)
are perceived as more moral than individu-
als espousing different goals and values (e.g.,
Brewer and Campbell, 1976; Leach et al.,
2007; Levine and Campbell, 1972).
Last, in samples of terrorists (Tamil
Tigers) and environmental activists, peo-
ple’s readiness to self-sacrifice was demon-
strated to positively predict their willingness
to engage in illegal means to further their
respective cause (Bélanger etal., 2014). In
the case of the Tamil Tigers, this included
support for suicide bombing as a means of
furthering their ethnonationalist agenda. For
environmentalists, this included physically
harming people and sabotaging polluting
industries. However, we should be careful in
interpreting these results as saying that self-
sacrifice unconditionally predicts violence.
As discussed later in this chapter, ideologi-
cal beliefs play a critical role in shaping one’s
proclivity toward peaceful or destructive
means to further one’s cause.
Implicit Measure: The Boom Task
Although self-report measures represent one
of the most important tools in social psychol-
ogy, there are several caveats associated with
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 471
their use. A classic issue tends to be social
desirability (i.e., the need of participants to
‘obtain approval by responding in a culturally
appropriate and acceptable manner’; Crowne
and Marlowe, 1960, p. 353). Paulhus and
John (1998) have posited the existence of two
distinct, socially desirable responses: self-
deceptive enhancement and impression man-
agement. The former refers to the tendency to
cast oneself in a positive light due to an overly
confident self-image (Paulhus and John,
1998), whereas the latter refers to ‘a deliber-
ate attempt to distort one’s responses in order
to create a favorable impression with others’
(Barrick and Mount, 1996, p. 262). Bélanger
and colleagues (2014) evinced that self-
sacrifice was not correlated with self-
deceptive enhancement and only weakly cor-
related (r = 0.09) with impression manage-
ment. Therefore, social desirability does not
have a strong influence on participants’
responses to the Self-Sacrifice Scale.
Another foreseeable issue with the self-
report measure is participants’ unwillingness
to report their genuine attitudes, fearing that
this could create trouble with law enforce-
ment agencies. This could indeed be a real
problem if an inmate attains an extremely
high score on the Self-Sacrifice Scale (e.g.,
dying for Daesh’s ideology); jailers could
use this information as an excuse for severe
punishments. To circumvent these cave-
ats, social psychologists have developed
implicit measures that preclude participants
from controlling their responses and relying
on introspection. The participants’ reaction
times to experimental stimuli are measured
in milliseconds and are compared to neutral,
baseline stimuli. Such measures exist for a
wide range of psychological attitudes (e.g.,
self-esteem, stereotypes), and self-sacrifice
is no exception. Furthermore, the interpre-
tation of these results requires relatively
sophisticated data analytical skills; there-
fore, the risk associated with these measures
(e.g., if they were intercepted by uninvited
third parties) is greatly reduced from an
ethical standpoint.
The implicit measure of self-sacrifice, the
‘Boom Task’ (Bélanger etal., 2014), involves
participants playing a science-fiction computer
game. The storyline is purposely unrealistic to
prevent participants’ ideological adherences
from interfering with the task. Specifically, the
participants play the role of a space traveler
whose spaceship is invaded by aliens who aim
to destroy humanity. The participants’ mission,
should they choose to accept it, is to save the
human race by neutralizing the enemy using
a bomb belt, which is presumably strapped to
their chest. During the task, the participants
explore the spaceship in search of the alien
threat and are exposed to different stimuli. The
participants are instructed to press the ‘A’ key
when they see an alien, to blow themselves up
and neutralize the threat, or press the ‘L’ key
to holster their bomb when presented with a
neutral image. The participants are instructed
to respond as quickly and accurately as pos-
sible to the images. Prior to playing the game,
the participants are shown all stimuli: four neu-
tral images (a chair, a computer, a lamp, and
a table) and one target image (alien). These
images are randomly shown except for the alien
image, which always comes last. The purpose
of showing the alien image last is that it would
not be logical for participants to detonate
their bomb belts repeatedly. The participants’
response latencies (measured in milliseconds)
to the neutral images are compared to the alien
image – quicker responses to the latter com-
pared to the former indicate a greater proclivity
to self-sacrifice. Research using this paradigm
has demonstrated that the Self-Sacrifice Scale
predicts how quickly participants press the
detonator versus how quickly they holster their
bomb (Bélanger etal., 2014). Reaction times
to the Boom Task can be altered using different
motivational inductions in the laboratory.
Decision-Making and
Behavioral Measures
Psychologists have also relied on numerous
decision-making and behavioral paradigms
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to measure people’s willingness to self-
sacrifice. One method is the use of a vignette-
like scenario, also referred to as the ‘trolley
problem’ (see Foot, 1967; Greene et al.,
2001, 2009). There are several variations of
this paradigm, but most involve telling the
participants that a train hurtling down the
tracks will kill several people if nothing is
done to stop it. Whether the people being
saved are in-group or out-group members
can be altered to present a different version
of this dilemma. Ultimately, participants are
given the fictitious choice of either jumping
on the tracks to stop the train (and save the
people’s lives) or passively watch the maca-
bre spectacle. This paradigm has been suc-
cessfully used in prior research (Orehek
etal., 2014; Swann etal., 2014), and our own
results indicate that participants’ decision to
stop the train is also positively correlated
with their responses to the Self-Sacrifice
Scale. Although the task is easy to adminis-
ter, a sacrificial dilemma such as the trolley
problem has recently been heavily criticized
by several authors, such as Bauman and col-
leagues (2014). Their critique is threefold:
‘(1) they are amusing rather than sobering,
(2) they are unrealistic and unrepresentative
of the moral situations people encounter in
the real world, and (3) they do not elicit the
same psychological processes as other moral
situations’ (p. 536). The authors contend that
the participants are extremely familiar with
this paradigm, and as a result, the task is
likely to elicit rehearsed responses.
Supporting this view, Chandler etal. (2013)
have reported that Mechanical Turk workers’
familiarity with the task can range from 30%
up to 85%, depending on their percentile of
activity on this online platform. Considering
these findings, it may be advantageous from
a methodological and theoretical standpoint
for researchers to study self-sacrifice using
more realistic paradigms. In other words, the
participants can talk the talk, but do they
walk the walk when it comes to supporting
the cause they presumably cherish?
To answer this question, Bélanger et al.
(2014; Study 4) had participants partake in a
pain study, whereby they were told that, for
each teaspoon of hot sauce they ate (i.e.,
tabasco sauce), the experimenter would give
$1 to a charity of their choice. The task is
endless, and people are allowed to eat as
much hot sauce as they can or want. Typically,
the participants eat three teaspoons of sauce,
but there is significant variation (from zero to
30 teaspoons). In principle, the number of
teaspoons of hot sauce that the participants
eat reflects their willingness to self-sacrifice
for this cause and, indeed, there is a positive
correlation between the participants’ place-
ment on the Self-Sacrifice Scale and the
number of teaspoons of hot sauce they eat
(Bélanger etal., 2014).
Another method of studying self-sacrifice
is through a donation paradigm, whereby
participants are given the choice of giving
(or not) real money to a charity associated
with their cause. This approach measures two
dimensions: (1) people’s choice to engage
in a cost-bearing behavior and, if so, (2) the
magnitude of such a sacrifice (i.e., the amount
of money donated to the cause). Using this
paradigm with a sample of Christian partici-
pants, the ratings on the Self-Sacrifice Scale
predicted how much money they donated to
an organization whose mission was to pro-
tect Christians persecuted in the Middle East
(Bélanger et al., 2014). Self-sacrifice was
unrelated to giving money to a cause differ-
ent from their own, attesting to the notion that
self-sacrifice is associated with ideologically
specific behavior.
The foregoing discussion gives us the lay of
the land on self-sacrifice to tackle some of
the biggest questions in this line of research,
including the nature of (1) the motivational
forces that compel individuals to engage in
personally cost-bearing behavior, (2) the
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 473
group and ideological features that make
people more apt to sacrifice for the causes,
and (3) the psychological processes through
which people become devoted martyrs. In
the present section, we review evidence col-
lected both in the field and from lab experi-
ments around the world to elucidate these
questions and present the 3N theory of radi-
calization (Kruglanski etal., 2014b; Webber
& Kruglanski, 2016) to integrate these find-
ings into a comprehensive theoretical
framework. However, we first turn to the
concept of radicalization, which is interwo-
ven with the concept of self-sacrifice.
Understanding how both are connected will
be useful to our analysis.
Radicalization is commonly defined as
‘the social and psychological process of
incrementally experienced commitment to
extremist political or religious ideology’
(Horgan, 2009, p. 152). Radicalization is not
specific to any political or religious ideol-
ogy, nor does it entail engaging in violence.
According to Kruglanski and colleagues
(2014b), radicalization may be experienced
through different degrees of increasing inten-
sity, whereby higher levels of radicalization
represent greater ‘imbalance between the
focal goal served by the extreme behavior
and other common ends that people have’
(p. 71). At the lower end of the spectrum,
people may simply agree with the group’s
ideology (passive support). At higher inten-
sity levels, the individual becomes directly
engaged in behaviors to further the cause (par-
ticipation). Ultimately, when an individual is
radicalized at the highest level, that person
becomes ready to sacrifice everything, includ-
ing his or her life, for the ideology. How, then,
does the journey of radicalization begin?
The 3N theory postulates that radicalization
occurs as a result of the confluence of three
elements: Needs, Network, and Narrative.
Rather than being a list of additive factors
that contribute to people’s willingness to
self-sacrifice, the theory also attempts to
explicate the process of radicalization
through these components. The Need ele-
ment pertains to individuals’ quest for per-
sonal significance, the desire to matter and to
have respect in one’s own eyes and those of
others who are important (Kruglanski etal.,
2009, 2013, 2014b, 2015b). Personal signifi-
cance loss can be induced by any personal
experience that injures an individual’s sense
of self-worth, including humiliation, stigma-
tization, or being afflicted by a sense of
injustice (Dugas et al., 2016). Individuals
seeking significance are likely to turn to
group ideologies and collectivistic goals to
restore their lost significance: group mem-
bership tends to be rewarded with prestige,
status, resources, and a sense of belonging
(e.g., Tajfel and Turner, 1979). This propen-
sity to turn to groups when in need of signifi-
cance is called a collectivistic shift
(Kruglanski and Orehek, 2011; Kruglanski
et al., 2013). The second N is the social
Network in which individuals are embedded,
which dictates how one should behave to
gain status and recognition from the group.
Embedded in such groups is an ideological
component – the third N of the theory, the
Narrative – in which the norms and values of
comrades progressively permeate the per-
son’s identity and serve as a moral compass.
The ideological narrative prescribes what is
acceptable and what is worth defending at all
costs. Some narratives may encourage build-
ing peace and equality through justice and
conciliation, whereas others may glorify
extreme aggression against the enemies
of one’s group and push individuals toward
violent extremism.
A burgeoning body of empirical evidence
supports the 3N model of radicalization.
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It includes surveys and experiments per-
formed in laboratory and field settings in a
variety of locations and conflict zones.
Research on the Need component of the 3N
theory has been particularly substantial. For
example, in a sample of Iraqi and Palestinian
refugees, Dugas etal. (2016) found a nega-
tive relationship between feeling significant
and willingness to self-sacrifice. Different
ways of manipulating the feeling of signifi-
cance have been utilized by the same authors,
such as recalling a time when one felt
socially rejected, falling short of accom-
plishing something meaningful, or having a
low score on an IQ test. In all cases, these
conceptually similar manipulations rendered
the participants more prone to self-sacrifice
for a cause. Dugas and colleagues also found
that the relationship between significance
loss and willingness to self-sacrifice for a
cause was mediated by people’s search for
meaning in life. Furthermore, people recall-
ing a time when they self-sacrificed for a
cause (vs. recalling a positive memory)
increased their personal significance. The
latter results suggest that making sacrifices
in the name of a cause is a more effective
means to achieve a sense of significance than
the pursuit of pleasurable activities – a set of
findings that resonate well with the princi-
ples of existential and humanistic psychol-
ogy, which connects self-transcendence
(detachment from self-interest in the pursuit
of a cause) and meaning in life (Frankl,
2000; Maslow, 1966; May, 1953).
Could this search for meaning also explain
why people embrace unspeakable atroci-
ties? In an attempt to answer this question,
Bélanger and colleagues (2017) recently
surveyed almost a thousand Canadians and
measured how socially alienated they felt (a
proxy for insignificance) with items such as
‘I feel that Canadian society despises who
I am’ and ‘I no longer support the way the
Canadian government administers the coun-
try’. Consistent with our expectations, the
participants’ social alienation positively pre-
dicted support for violence against civilians
and infrastructure and support for radical
groups engaging in these various forms of
violent activism. Similar patterns of results
were obtained with a terrorist sample of 241
members of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam), such that personal insig-
nificance (i.e., feeling small, worthless, and
hopeless) positively predicted their will-
ingness to self-sacrifice for their group,
which in turn predicted their support for the
armed struggle to establish a separate state
(Bélanger, 2013).
Other researchers from different theo-
retical perspectives have also theorized and
adduced evidence in support of the Need
component discussed in the 3N model of radi-
calization. For example, Terror Management
Theory (TMT; see Burke etal., 2010, for a
review) posits that humans are subject to
existential anxiety. To counteract the fear
of meaninglessness (existential angst), indi-
viduals ascribe great importance to cultural
worldviews that provide a framework for
understanding the universe in which they live
by defining the beliefs, practices, and aspi-
rations that are worth attaining. As a result,
those who adhere to different cultural prac-
tices are often derogated. Among the lines
of evidence marshaled in support of this the-
sis is TMT’s demonstration that individuals
who are reminded of their own mortality (the
ultimate threat to one’s significance) defend
their cultural worldviews with great fervor
(e.g., Greenberg etal., 1990). For example,
Christian students reminded of their own
mortality (vs. not reminded about their mor-
tality) evaluated a Christian more positively
and a Jew more negatively. In relation to
self-sacrifice, inducing mortality salience
in a sample of Iranian students resulted in
increased positive attitudes toward someone
wanting to die as a suicide bomber attacking
the United States and greater willingness to
join this cause (Pyszczynski etal., 2006). In
the control condition, the participants had
a more pacifistic stance and reported more
favorable attitudes toward someone who
spoke against martyrdom attacks and greater
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 475
willingness to join a cause that did not sup-
port suicide bombings. Similarly, Routledge
and Arndt (2008) evinced that mortality
salience (vs. a control group) made British
participants more prone to self-sacrifice for
England. However, mortality salience only
had this sort of impact when the group was
described as transient. When the group was
described as immortal, the participants who
were subjected to the mortality salience
condition did not report greater willingness
to die for the sake of the group. Altogether,
these results suggest that self-sacrifice is a
means to feel significant when one’s signifi-
cance is under threat. By being registered
in the collective memory of one’s group,
individuals can psychologically transcend
death and live on in the memories of others
(Elster, 2005).
As mentioned earlier, the Need and
Network components are intimately related in
that, once the significance quest is awakened,
people are inclined to join a group to quench
their thirst for meaning and recognition. This
propensity to turn to groups is often referred
to as a collectivistic shift (Kruglanski and
Orehek, 2011; Kruglanski etal., 2013), and
evidence related to this principle abounds.
For example, in a survey distributed across
12 Arab nations, less life success (i.e., insig-
nificance) was positively correlated with peo-
ple’s tendency to self-identify as members of
a collectivity (e.g., their nation or their reli-
gion) rather than as individuals (Kruglanski
etal., 2012). Similarly, experimental induc-
tions of personal uncertainty have also been
demonstrated to increase identification with
cohesive groups (Hogg etal., 2007; Reid and
Hogg, 2005).
At a certain point, it is said that a person’s
identity fuses with that of the group – that is,
‘their personal self (characteristics of indi-
viduals that make them unique) joins with a
social self (characteristics of individuals that
align them with groups)’ (Buhrmester and
Swann, 2015, p. 1), and they come to experi-
ence a sense of ‘oneness’ with other group
members. When this transformation occurs,
individuals become empowered (strength
in numbers), and they gradually become
devoted to the defense of their group, even
at the expense of their own lives (Atran
etal., 2014; Kruglanski etal., 2013; Sheikh
et al., 2016). In their systematic investiga-
tion of the psychological changes that occur
when individuals define themselves as group
members, Orehek and colleagues (2014)
demonstrated that
interdependent self-construals, compared to inde-
pendent self-construals, attenuate death anxiety,
reduce the avoidance of death, increase the
approach to death-related stimuli, induce a greater
willingness to become a martyr, and induce a
greater willingness to sacrifice the self for other
members of important groups. (p. 265)
In summary, when one’s identity fuses with
the identity of the group, that individual may
be more willing to engage in cost- bearing
behavior to support the group.
How does this process of fusion operate
exactly? In a series of experiments, Swann
etal. (2014) found that when ‘fused’ partici-
pants were made to believe that they shared
core characteristics (e.g., genes, values) with
other group members, their willingness to
sacrifice themselves for the group was mag-
nified. Furthermore, identity fusion with the
group, coupled with beliefs in shared char-
acteristics, led fused individuals to project
familial ties on its members, which in turn
made them more prone to self-sacrifice for
the group, regardless of whether these char-
acteristics were positive or negative.
Note that there is a connection between
the concept of identity fusion, familial ties,
and terrorism. One of the landmark find-
ings in terrorism studies is the role of social
networks in the process of radicalization.
Specifically, one of the most robust risk fac-
tors associated with joining a violent extrem-
ist group is knowing someone who belongs
to a radical organization. For example,
Sageman (2008) reports that, for Al-Qaeda,
‘about two-thirds of the people in the sample
were friends with other people who joined
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together or already had some connection to
terrorism’ (p. 66). Similar findings were also
reported by Della Porta (1988) with members
of the Brigate Rosse, in which 69% of Italian
left-wing militants who joined the group had
been friends with at least one member before
joining. In other words, it appears that people
may be inclined to join radical movements
because they already have strong affinities
and common experiences with some of their
members, which facilitates the projection of
familial ties onto them. These ties are not
only imagined but are often real. Terrorism
often runs in families, as can be attested by
the number of siblings who engage in vio-
lence: the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston bomb-
ings), the Kouachi brothers (Charlie Hebdo
attacks), and the Bakraoui brothers (Brussels
attacks) are a few examples.
We now turn to the last N of our model,
the (ideological) Narrative to which individu-
als are exposed through the group. Here, we
define ideologies as ideas and beliefs that
influence people’s decision-making and
goal-related behavior – ‘prepackaged units
of interpretation that spread because of basic
human motives to understand the world,
avoid existential threats and maintain val-
ued interpersonal relationships’ (Jost et al.,
2008, p. 1). As mentioned earlier, ideologi-
cal narratives dictate how the person ought to
behave to gain significance. Indeed, making
sacrifices at the behest of these ideological
imperatives can elevate one to a legendary
status, an incentive rarely matched elsewhere.
However, not all ideologies are created equal.
Put simply, some ideas appear more worthy
of sacrifice than others. In keeping with this
view, scholars have recently introduced the
notion of sacred values to refer to ideologies
that have the necessary psychological hook
to imbue their adepts with extraordinary
determination to defend them. Formally,
sacred values are defined as ‘nonnegotiable
preferences whose defense compels actions
beyond…calculable costs and consequences’
(Atran, 2016, p. 2; see also Ginges et al.,
2007). Sacred values include religious (e.g.,
Islam, Christianity, ancestral land) and secu-
lar beliefs (e.g., human rights, democracy).
Those who adhere to these sacred values
are referred to as ‘devoted actors’ (Atran
2016; Atran etal., 2007), who behave based
on what feels morally ‘right’ as opposed to
what is rational (i.e., cost–benefit analysis).
Devoted actors are immune to the temptation
of materialistic concessions. In fact, such a
proposition (e.g., trading ancestral land for
cash) may foment moral outrage and vio-
lent actions (Dehghani et al., 2010; Ginges
et al., 2007). Similar reactions would also
be expected if the existence of the group
holding the values was threatened in some
way. In line with the devoted actor’s model,
Sheikh and colleagues (2016) demonstrated
that Moroccans who hold sharia as a sacred
value reported a greater willingness to die for
sharia and support a militant jihad in com-
parison to those who did not believe in such
a value (Sheikh etal., 2016). This effect was
even stronger for individuals whose identity
was fused with a kin-like group of friends. In
a subsequent study, the interaction between
sacred values and group-identity fusion was
stronger for individuals whose democratic
values were considered to be under threat
(e.g., Spaniards considering the imposition
of sharia in Spain).
In summary, the 3N model of radicaliza-
tion appears particularly useful for under-
standing the psychological underpinnings
of martyrs by integrating various theoreti-
cal perspectives into a unified framework.
Although we discussed them separately, the
three factors discussed in this chapter – Need,
Network, and Narrative – operate in concert
rather than in isolation from one another.
To summarize, individuals transition from
wanting significance to joining a powerful
group to which they become fused, which in
turn leads them to project familial ties and
adhere to sacred values. When these values
are imperiled, fighting against its detractors
becomes a moral obligation, and those will-
ing to answer the call of duty are bestowed
with significance and glory.
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 477
In the previous sections of this chapter, we
discussed various psychological forces that
compel one to defend an idea or a group of
like-minded individuals, regardless of the
personal cost. Although all sacrifices involve
a personal cost (e.g., enduring pain, losing
one’s life), most have far-reaching social
implications. Indeed, people commonly
neglect others (e.g., friends and family) to
achieve their ideological ambitions. Much of
what we know about the interpersonal conse-
quences of self-sacrifice has not emerged
from the confines of terrorism studies but
from industrial-organizational psychology
and, more specifically, from its vast literature
on leadership. This may appear paradoxical
because people commonly assume that, in
the competitive world of organizations, suc-
cessful leaders are ‘snakes in suits’ (Babiak
and Hare, 2006) – ruthless, if not psycho-
pathic, individuals who are incapable of
empathy and who would not hesitate to
throw people under the bus to rise to the top.
Stated differently (and perhaps more nicely),
sacrificing oneself for an organization
appears at odds with the harsh and cruel cor-
porate environment in which sacrificing
employees (i.e., issuing a pink slip) is accept-
able, if not desirable, in the name of profita-
bility. However, history is rife with fully
dedicated industry and military leaders who
are willing to forego all for their organization
in times of hardship. One classic example is
American automobile executive Lee Iacocca,
who sacrificed his own annual salary – down
to US $1 – in a (successful) attempt to turn
Chrysler around (Iacocca & Novak, 1984).
One explanation for this outstanding volte-
face is Iacocca’s ability to convince his
employees of the ‘need for sacrifice and extra
effort’ (Bass, 1985, p. 15). It appears that,
under certain circumstances, leaders’ sacri-
fices can be contagious, providing their
troops with an iron will to achieve specific
organizational objectives. In fact, several
authors have argued that this could be one of
the reasons why revolutionary movements,
such as Daesh (also referred to as ISIS, the
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), have been
able to triumph, or at least resist against all
odds, over more potent foes (e.g., Arreguin-
Toft, 2001; Atran and Ginges, 2012).
Who are these people who are capable
of inspiring such unwavering commitment?
According to Conger and Kanungo (1994),
they are charismatic leaders, people with the
remarkable ability to ‘formulate and articu-
late an inspirational vision’ (Conger and
Kanungo, 1994, p. 442) and to ‘transform the
follower’s individual needs to the common
need for the organization’ (Choi and Mai-
Dalton, 1998, p. 492). These are the type of
leaders who galvanize their followers with an
inspirational ideology to which they become
faithful, respectful, and emotionally attached.
How do charismatic leaders achieve such a
feat? By and large, they pursue their vision
by sacrificing objects of value for the organi-
zation. In other words, they engage in sacrifi-
cial (i.e., counterfinal) behaviors that display
unequivocally to group members that they
have skin in the game, that they are commit-
ted to the organization.
According to Choi and Mai-Dalton’s
(1998) analytical model of leadership, lead-
ers can display self-sacrifice in three major
organizational areas: (1) division of labor,
(2) distribution of rewards, and (3) distribu-
tion of power. In the division of labor, leaders
can engage voluntarily in more ‘risky and/or
arduous actions, tasks, turns, or segments
of work in organizational settings’ (Choi &
Mai-Dalton, 1998, p. 478). At this level, the
leader ‘takes one for the team’ and assumes
all responsibility for negative outcomes.
In the distribution of rewards, leaders can
forego or postpone their share of organiza-
tional rewards, such as salaries, promotions,
and benefits. A leader may resort to such
behavior during an organizational crisis to
signal the severity of the situation and dem-
onstrate his or her dedication to the success
of the organization. Last, in the distribution
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of power, leaders may forego exercising their
privileges, such as abstaining from exercising
their power in their positions despite having
the right to do so.
Choi and Mai-Dalton (1999) evinced that
leaders who self-sacrifice for the organization
can have three major types of impact on their
followers. First, leaders who make sacrifices
tend to be perceived as more charismatic than
leaders who do not; they inspire admiration,
trust, and loyalty (Conger, 1989; Conger and
Kanungo, 1987; House and Shamir, 1993;
Yukl, 1994). Second, sacrificial leaders are
perceived as more legitimate; they are viewed
as having the proper status to lead and exert
influence over others. Third, leaders play an
important role in shaping the culture of their
organizations. Because they are perceived as
the epitome of virtue, self-sacrificial leaders
build a norm of reciprocity. In line with their
organizational role, followers are expected
to adhere to the group norms and sacrifice
for the organization. As a result, the practice
of self-sacrifice is fostered and reinforced
across the organization.
The latter mechanism is clearly apparent in
Japan, where workers’ devotion and sacrifice
for the organization is practically unmatched.
Herbig and Palumbo (1994) note that the
amount of time expended at one’s workplace
is a symbolic statement of submission to the
organization and leaders. Although overtime
work statistics are severely underestimated
due to unpaid and unlogged extracurricu-
lar work, on average, Japanese white-collar
workers typically work 60–70 hours a week
(Herbig and Palumbo, 1994). According to
Tugawa (1991), of the paid holidays to which
Japanese workers are entitled, more than
50% are not taken (Tugawa, 1991). However,
to what extent and at what cost are Japanese
workers willing to demonstrate such devo-
tion to their companies? How can this bear
any resemblance to the extreme forms of
martyrdom we have discussed previously?
The answer to both questions is an extreme
form of workaholism – Karoshi, or death
from overwork.
Karoshi is described as a ‘fatal condition
in which the living rhythm of a human being
is collapsed due to excessive fatigue and the
life maintenance function is ruined’ (Kanai,
2009, p. 1). Victims of Karoshi characteristi-
cally sacrifice themselves for approximately
3,000–3,500 hours a year, working 14-hour
days and seven days a week, resulting in
their death at an average age of 40 years
(Herbig and Palumbo, 1994). As Herbig and
Palumbo (1994) stated, ‘the economic ants
are literally working themselves to death
for the betterment of the colony’ (p. 12).
Although there are no official statistics, the
National Defense Counsel for Victims of
Karoshi (2017) estimates that the number of
Karoshi victims reaches up to 10,000 deaths
a year. In comparison, Japan recorded 4,411
traffic-related deaths in 2012 (The Japan
Times, 2013). Although it may appear that
Karoshi is on the extreme end of cases, it is
nevertheless a real phenomenon that demon-
strates the ends to which individuals are will-
ing to go to sacrifice for their organization. It
displays the extent of workers’ willingness
to give, quite literally, their all – their per-
sonal interests, well-being, and health – for
their organization.
The study of self-sacrifice has generated a
fascinating empirical literature at the inter-
section of anthropology, biology, criminol-
ogy, social cognition, and political science.
As the present chapter attests, there is a
notable dialectic between field work and
experimental research conducted in this area.
As a result of this multidisciplinary and
cross-cultural work, the study of self-
sacrifice has matured tremendously over a
short period. Additionally, it is relatively clear
now that attitudes such as the willingness to
die for a cause, once thought to be an irregu-
larity of the mind, are in fact swayed pro-
foundly by powerful social forces. If anything,
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Self-Sacrifice for a cauSe: a review and an integrative Model 479
being dedicated to a cause to the point at
which one’s self-interest is entirely subju-
gated by a higher cause is not irrational but,
rather, a principled element of group survival.
However, as we have seen through the lens of
the 3N model of radicalization, self-sacrifice
is not entirely a selfless act. Someone who
fights tooth and nail for an ideal transforms
from being a ‘speck of dust in an uncaring
universe’ (Arie Kruglanski, personal commu-
nication, February 14, 2017) to a glorious
hero who is remembered eternally in the col-
lective memory of his or her group (e.g.,
Dugas etal., 2016; Elster, 2005; Kruglanski
etal., 2009). As Kruglanski etal. (2009) note,
‘paradoxically, the willingness to die in an act
of suicidal terrorism may be motivated by the
desire to live forever’ (p. 336).
Arguably, one of psychology’s most impor-
tant goals is to reduce people’s suffering and
find ways to foster harmony in intergroup
relations. The importance of this mission
is conspicuous: we live in an increasingly
splintered, yet fundamentally interdependent,
world. Therefore, at this juncture, we believe
that one of the most important challenges
facing psychologists today is to find ways to
temper zealotry and excessive commitment
to groups. Although ‘living passionately’ is
often touted as the ultimate maxim for suc-
cess in life, when pursued obsessively (see
Bélanger etal., 2015; Lafrenière etal., 2011;
Vallerand etal., 2003), passions may abrogate
one’s moral bind to the law (Gousse-Lessard
etal., 2013), promote moral disengagement
(see Bandura, 1999), and result in the justi-
fication of violence. This echoes Descartes’
(1649/1972) idea that passions can be ecstatic
and helpful as long as they are somewhat con-
strained by reason. Thus, inoculating young
members of our society against the lure of
radical forces and rechanneling their motiva-
tion for significance toward peaceful groups
and ideologies appear key to reducing vio-
lent extremism. These are pressing concerns
because it is generally recognized that the
problem of terrorism is not diminishing and,
indeed, constitutes a serious threat to world
security and stability. Critically, as noted by
some of the leading experts in the field, ‘our
understanding of the causal processes of dis-
engagement from terrorism remains theoreti-
cal or speculative’ (Gill etal., 2015, p. 245).
This is due to a general lack of evaluation in
the field of counter-radicalization (Rabasa
etal., 2010) and a complete absence of ran-
domized controlled trials – the gold standard
of scientific testing (Shadish etal., 2002) – to
examine the impact of intervention methods
on violent extremists (Gielen, 2015). Koehler
(2016) notes that deradicalization ‘remains
one of the most under researched fields,
which is even more surprising, as the connec-
tion to successful counter-terrorism, peace-
keeping, and counter-radicalization policies
is obvious’ (p. 290).
We would like to conclude on a positive note
by pointing out that researchers have recently
made encouraging progress in helping peo-
ple leave terrorism behind. Preliminary evi-
dence for the effectiveness of the 3N model
on deradicalization comes from a recent field
study by Kruglanski and colleagues (2014a).
This research was conducted with 1,906
members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) who were detained in various
deradicalization centers across Sri Lanka.
The program aimed to address the detainees’
3Ns by having a group of detainees engage in
a series of programs (e.g., educational, voca-
tional, psychosocial, and creative therapies).
The control group in this study did not have
access to such opportunities. Psychological
surveys were administered twice over a nine-
month period. The results indicated that the
Tamil Tigers’ support for armed struggle
significantly declined in the rehabilitation
group but not in the control condition. These
results provide partial support for the notion
that addressing people’s needs, narratives,
and networks can be useful for promoting
sustained deradicalization. However, a full
understanding of how the 3Ns can be utilized
to promote deradicalization requires care-
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... (Teacher,78) Promoting the Sense of Self-sacrifice Self-sacrifice is defined as the psychological will to suffer and sacrifice life for a cause. This definition shows that self-sacrifice has a motivation component as well as an ideological component (Bélanger et al., 2018). The university teachers were asked to report on the ways and mean their university uses to promote the sense of self-sacrifice among students. ...
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The main purpose of this study was to examine how institutions contribute to the development of character strength and religiosity among students in universities and madrassas in Punjab, Pakistan. A mixed-method research design was employed in a convergent manner. The study population was university and madrassas teachers and heads of the departments of Punjab, Pakistan. The study sample comprises 256 teachers/heads of institutions, which includes (128 from universities and 128 from madrassas) selected by a multi-stage sampling procedure. A semi-structured interview schedule that included 14 open-ended questions on aspects of character strength and religiosity was composed. The views of teachers and heads of institutions were gathered through a semi-structured interview schedule in order to determine the role of these institutions in promoting character strength and developing religiosity among students The data was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistical procedures, such as statistical package for the social sciences version 21. The thematic analysis was applied for emphasizing meaning, coding and interpretation. The findings of the research investigation indicate a significant role of teachers/heads of institutions in promoting character strength and developing religiosity among students. The study results show that the curriculum of the Bachelor of Sciences program does not possess sufficient content on character strength and religiosity. It revealed, most university teachers try to interpret these abilities to students’ minds during routine classroom activities. There is a need to revise the course outlines at the Bachelor of Sciences level, and sufficient contents will also include therein. This study was limited to public universities and madrassas of the Sargodha division, PunjabPakistan. Future researchers can conduct large-scale, comprehensive research covering both public and private universities and madrassas in the Punjab province.
... The devoted actor model (Atran and Ginges, 2015), which combines identity fusion with sacred values, represents one such model (although our findings offered little evidence for the unique predictive utility of sacred values). Another candidate is the 3N model (e.g., Webber and Kruglanski, 2017;Bélanger et al., 2018Bélanger et al., , 2019, which examines the influence of needs, narratives, and social networks on radicalization. Due to its expansiveness, the 3N model provides a relatively comprehensive model of the variables that may motivate true believers to translate their convictions into extreme behavior. ...
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Recent research has identified three promising candidates for predicting extreme behavior: sacred values, moral convictions, and identity fusion. Each construct is thought to motivate extreme behavior in unique ways: Sacred values trigger extreme actions when people are asked to compromise cause-related values for personal gain; moral convictions trigger extreme actions when a cause is aligned with one’s moral compass; and identity fusion triggers extreme actions when a cause is inextricably associated (“fused”) with the personal self. In six studies, we asked which of the three constructs (either alone or in combination) was most predictive of sacrifice for a cause. We measured all three constructs with respect to either of two causes: gun rights (Studies 1–3) or abortion rights (4–6). The outcome measure was endorsement of fighting and dying for the cause. Although all three constructs were significant predictors of the outcome measure when considered separately, identity fusion consistently emerged as the strongest predictor of endorsement of self-sacrifice when all three were considered simultaneously. This pattern occurred regardless of the target cause (gun or abortion rights), the participant’s position on the cause (i.e., pro-gun or anti-gun, pro-choice, or pro-life), or nationality (American vs. Spanish). Also, there was no evidence that the predictors interacted to predict the outcome measure. Finally, a manipulation that threatened the validity of the personal self strengthened the relationship between endorsement of self-sacrifice and both (a) identity fusion and (b) moral convictions. The latter finding suggests that threats to the validity of one’s self-views may amplify the extreme behaviors of true believers.
... Sin embargo, a pesar de que toda la evidencia presentada en la revisión es de gran valor investigativo y social, es importante considerar y prestar atención a algunas limitaciones y nuevas directrices que ayudarían a mejorar y amplificar el desarrollo de los estudios sobre la fusión de identidad, como: a. que la mayoría de los participantes en los estudios de fusión de identidad eran españoles, estadounidenses y polacos, siendo la mitad de ellos estudiantes universitarios, es decir, población WEIRD -entendida como sujetos pertenecientes a países occidentales, educados, industrializados, ricos y democráticos (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic [WEIRD]) (Henrich et al., 2010)-, lo que representa un problema habitual de las investigaciones en psicología, y por lo cual se hace necesario seguir indagando el comportamiento de la teoría de fusión de identidad en otros contextos socioculturales (Henrich et al., 2010); b. que gran parte de la evidencia que relaciona la fusión de identidad y el sacrificio extremo por el grupo se basa en la escala de disposición a luchar y morir de Swann et al. (2009), por lo que sería deseable seguir dando evidencia del poder de predicción de la fusión de identidad utilizando diferentes instrumentos -como la escala de sacrificio personal (Bélanger et al., 2014)-o situaciones que midan el sacrificio extremo por el grupo -como la medida implícita "The Boom Task" (Bélanger et al., 2014;Bélanger et al., 2018)-; c. que la mayor cantidad de estudios utiliza como grupo de referencia el país de origen, dando a entender implícitamente que no habría una diferencia sustancial entre el país como estado-nación (p. ej., España) o como pueblo (p. ...
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El objetivo de la presente investigación fue realizar una revisión sistemática de los estudios empíricos que han reportado el uso de la teoría de fusión de identidad. Para esto, la revisión siguió los lineamientos y recomendaciones de la declaración PRISMA. Las bases de datos consultadas fueron Web of Science, Scopus, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Willey Online Library, EBSCO y JSTORE. En total, se revisaron 52 estudios empíricos, en español y en inglés, publicados entre los años 2009 y 2018, que cumplían con los criterios de selección. La mayoría de los estudios dan evidencia de que la fusión de identidad es un fuerte predictor de conductas extremas de sacrificio por el grupo, y también, se ha asociado generalmente a variables como la identificación con el grupo, el compromiso grupal, el apoyo social percibido, la lealtad incluso en condiciones de ostracismo, los sentimientos, afectos y emociones hacia el grupo, y la percepción de parentesco, entre otras. Al final se discuten sus implicaciones y limitaciones.
... Even what looks at the outset like unquestionable self-destruction may end up being automatic reproduction of external pressures as long as the functional interrelations between a system in question and its environment are taken into account. Consider apoptotic cells committing suicide or kamikaze aviators intentionally crushing their planes into enemy ships (Ameisen, 2014;Axell & Hideaki, 2002;Bélanger, Schumpe, Menon, Ng, & Nociti, 2018;Elmore, 2007): in both instances, selfdestruction on the micro-level is performed for the benefit of the overarching macro-systems-respectively, multicellular organisms and the Empire of Japan. In these and many similar cases (Shorter & Rueppell, 2011), the full-blown systems with their own freedoms and teleologies are reduced to expendable parts of the larger wholes, the mechanical devices taking orders from others. ...
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Across the natural and social world, some fairly advanced and apparently robust systems destroy themselves without discernible reason, function, or purpose. Whereas such and similar cases have been discussed within specific branches of scholarships, the attempts to propose and test a general theory of self‐destruction in complex systems remain, to our knowledge, a thing of the future. To move in this direction, we suggest that the conflicts between explicit stratification, thorough functional differentiation and tacit segmentation within complex systems, are likely to provoke their unintended self‐annihilation. Furthermore, we hypothesize that whenever such systems collapse, it is the circular co‐dependency of noisy signaling, redundancy, and semantic inflation that sets self‐destructive mechanisms in motion. We illustrate our preliminary findings with examples from social, natural, and artificial life; reexamine autoimmunity as a popular model of systemic self‐destruction; and indicate potential avenues of empirical research aimed at supporting, qualifying or disproving the underlying hypothesis.
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The psychological mechanisms that lead terrorists to make costly sacrifices for their ideological convictions are of great theoretical and practical importance. We investigate two key components of this process: (1) the feeling of admiration toward ingroup members making costly self-sacrifices for their ideological group, and (2) identity fusion with religion. Data collected in 27 Spanish prisons reveal that jihadists’ admiration toward members of radical Islamist groups amplifies their willingness to engage in costly sacrifices for religion in prison. This effect is produced because admiration toward radical Islamist groups has a binding effect, increasing identity fusion with religion. Five additional experiments provide causal and behavioural evidence for this model. By showing that admiration for ingroup members increases identity fusion, which in turn makes individuals prone to engage in costly pro-group behaviours, we provide insights into the emotional machineries of radicalization and open new avenues for prevention strategies to strengthen public safety.
An important aspect of understanding the dynamics of any phenomenon, including nonviolence, is to construct theories and models based on empirical research. A cursory glance at the history of psychology reveals that while Gandhi was able to weave the entire fabric of nonviolence, psychology of nonviolence still has a long way to go. This chapter details the scientific evidence for phenomena long regarded as the hallmark of nonviolence, namely, love and compassion, justice and morality, self-control, self-sacrifice and power. It is concluded that while we have garnered considerable scientific knowledge regarding these phenomena, much more needs to be accomplished regarding the practice of all of the above. Further, it is only lately that we have come to understand that self-control does not have to undergo ego depletion, that self-sacrifice is voluntarily possible and satisfying, that integrative power is, consistently, more efficacious than other types of power and that the nexus between justice and morality is complex. Gandhi was able to utilize these very concepts, communicating to his followers their importance and helping them to comprehend them. Moreover, he had enabled his followers to use them to overcome the oppressor and to better their own lives, through the experience of upward spirals of positive emotions. Over the years, several models of nonviolence have been constructed, including the 4 P model, the diamond model and the three-dimensional model of nonviolence. While their construction and subsequent validation have helped this nascent field of enquiry to grow, the life and work of Gandhi and the enormous bulk of his writings on his experiences and experiments with Truth and nonviolence can certainly be of great utility to enrich our understanding of nonviolence.
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Understanding what motivates people to join violent ideological groups and engage in acts of cruelty against others is of great social and societal importance. In this paper, I posit that one necessary element is ‘ideological obsession’—an ideological commitment fuelled by unmet psychological needs and regulated by inhibitory and ego-defensive mechanisms. Drawing from evidence collected across cultures and ideologies, I describe four processes through which ideological obsession puts individuals on a path towards violence. First, ideological obsession deactivates moral self-regulatory processes, allowing unethical behaviours to be carried out without self-recrimination. Second, ideologically obsessed individuals are easily threatened by information that criticises their ideology, which in turn leads to hatred and violent retaliation. Third, ideological obsession changes people's social interactions by making them gravitate towards like-minded individuals who support ideological violence. As these social networks become more interconnected, they amplify one's adherence to violent extremism. Finally, ideologically obsessed individuals are prone to psychological reactance, making them immune to communication strategies intended to dissuade them from using violence. In fact, messages espousing non-violence can have the opposite effect by reinforcing their violence-supporting ideology. I conclude by presenting evidence-based strategies to prevent radicalisation leading to violence for individuals in pre-criminal spaces. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The political brain: neurocognitive and computational mechanisms’.
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The present research investigates the counterfinality effect, whereby the more a means is perceived as detrimental to an alternative goal, the more it is perceived as instrumental to its focal goal. The results from five studies supported this hypothesis. Study 1 demonstrated the counterfinality effect in an applied context: The more pain people experienced when getting tattooed, the more they perceived getting tattooed as instrumental to attaining their idiosyncratic goals (being unique, showing off, etc.). Study 2 experimentally replicated and extended the results of Study 1: A counterfinal (vs. non-counterfinal) consumer product was perceived as more detrimental, which in turn predicted the perceived effectiveness of the product. In Studies 3 and 5, we showed that increased perceived instrumentality due to counterfinality led to more positive attitudes toward a means. Finally, Studies 4 and 5 indicated that simultaneous commitment to both the focal and the alternative goal moderated the counterfinality effect. We discuss how various psychological phenomena can be subsumed under the general framework of counterfinality, which has broad practical implications extending to consumer behavior, health psychology, and terrorism.
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A fundamental aspect of being human is knowing that one day we will die. Efforts to contend with this knowledge are at the root of a great many social behaviors across a variety of domains, and include efforts to transcend the human body, aggression against enemies and the need for scapegoats, even extreme reactions such as terrorism and suicide, as well as the development of symbolic language and the creation of art and music. In this thought-provoking addition to the Herzliya Series on Personality and Social Psychology, editors Phillip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer have gathered a varied group of international thinkers to investigate these existential concerns within a framework that is both philosophical and practical. Theorists examine the nature of universal themes such as the importance of personal choice and human autonomy in an arbitrary world, and the vital roles of parenthood and religion in providing solace against the threat of meaninglessness. And clinicians discuss the use of various cognitive–behavioral therapies, emphasizing the mind's propensity to assign value in ways that can be either maladaptive or liberating. The authors build upon insights from previous chapters, resulting in a cohesive and thoughtfully-prepared book filled with cutting-edge research.
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This report presents two studies in very different contexts that provide convergent empirical evidence for the “devoted actor” hypothesis: people will become willing to protect nonnegotiable sacred values through costly sacrifice and extreme actions when such values are associated with groups whose individual members fuse into a unique collective identity. We interviewed and tested (on sacred values, identity fusion, and costly sacrifice) 260 Moroccans from two cities and neighborhoods previously associated with militant jihad, and we conducted a follow-up online experiment with 644 Spaniards fairly representative of the country at large (adding an intergroup formidability outcome measure). Moroccans expressed willingness to make costly sacrifices for implementation of strict sharia and were most supportive of militant jihad when they were fused with a kin-like group of friends and considered sharia law as sacred. Similarly, Spaniards who were fused with a kin-like group of friends and considered democracy as sacred were most willing to make costly sacrifices for democracy after being reminded of jihadi terrorism, and they were also more likely to consider their own group more formidable and jihadis as weak. © 2016 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
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Among the defining characteristics of the 21st century's first decade has been the specter of terrorism that threatens world stability and security. Although the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as those in Bali (2002), Madrid (2004), and London (2005) attracted major attention, the problem of terrorism and political violence is considerably more dispersed as hundreds (Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, 2005) of terrorist groups carry out lethal attacks in various parts of the world on a nearly daily basis. Following the tragic events of the 9/11 in 2001, former President George W. Bush declared a global war on terror that is now in its 12th year. To date, the United States' counter-terrorism strategy deployed onto the world stage has claimed billions of dollars and thousands of lives, including those of innocent civilians (laconically described as “collateral damage”). There is no question that the determined struggle against terror by the US and its allies has had impressive successes: elimination or arrests of major Al-Qaeda leaders, dismantlement of terrorists' logistical infrastructures, disabling of their financial networks. However, despite all these achievements, several roadblocks remain en route to conciliation and harmony in intergroup relations. Indeed, experts disagree as to whether we are safer now than on the eve of 9/11 as Islamic extremism seems far from subsiding and radicalization seems on the rise in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. There is a growing danger that the Arab Spring is turning into a deadly winter, as the waves of democracy meet the rocks of fanaticism…
Radicalization refers to the process whereby an individual comes to endorse non-normative, and often violent, means as a mechanism for goal achievement. The present chapter discusses three psychological factors-the 3 Ns-involved in this process, specifically as it pertains to violent extremism. First, we discuss the need, that is, the individual motivation underlying violent extremism, triggering events that activate this motivation within the individual, and the ramifications of these triggering events on extreme behavior. Second, we discuss the role of ideological narrative in justifying and legitimating violence as a necessary and permissible tool toward goal attainment. Third, and finally, we discuss social networks, and the role they play in how would-be-terrorists find themselves joining extremist organizations, and how these group dynamics increase one's willingness to perpetrate extreme acts of violence.
This book provides a comprehensive guide to the different aspects of deradicalization theories, programs and methods. It analyzes the practical and theoretical aspects of deradicalization programs and the methods being employed to bring extremists and terrorist back to a non-violent life. The book includes in-depth case studies on programs and former extremists, including interviews with former German neo-Nazis and families of Jihadists who have received deradicalization counselling. Using a coherent theory of radicalization and deradicalization, it integrates existing programs into a typology and methodology regarding the effects and concepts behind deradicalization. In addition, a current state of the art assessment of deradicalization programs around the world provides a collection of programs and landscapes worldwide. It thereby functions as a unique guide for practitioners and policymakers in need of evaluation or construction of such programs, as well as a resource pool for academics interested in research about deradicalization programs and processes. The major aim of this book is to consolidate the existing scholarship on deradicalization and to move the field forward by proposing a coherent theory of deradicalization, including ways to measure effectiveness, standard methods and procedures, different actors of such programs and cooperation on national and international level. In essence, this work enables the reader to identify how, when and why deradicalization programs work, how they can be built and structured, and to identify their limitations. This book will be of interest to students of radicalisation, counter-terrorism, radical Islam, criminology, security studies and IR.
This article examines how expectancy of goal achievement influences the perceived instrumentality of means to a focal goal, above and beyond the influence of goal commitment. Based on goal-systems theory (Kruglanski et al., 2002, 2013), the present research found that expectancy of goal achievement positively predicts the perceived instrumentality of multifinal means, which compound value by fulfilling several goals simultaneously, and negatively predicts perceived instrumentality of counterfinal means, which afford greater expectancy of attaining a given goal, but are detrimental to alternative goals. Study 1 found correlational and Study 2 experimental evidence of this phenomenon. Study 3 evinced that expectancy of goal achievement was associated with the number of multifinal and counterfinal means generated for goal pursuit. Study 4 found that expectancy predicted whether people select to engage in multifinal (vs. counterfinal) means. Lastly, Study 5 demonstrated that concern for desirability versus feasibility is the mediating process whereby expectancy influences perceived means instrumentality.
The present research examined the motivational underpinnings of self-sacrifice. Based on the quest for significance theory, we argue that individuals are propelled to self-sacrifice for a cause to achieve a sense of self-worth, particularly after experiencing a loss of significance. Results from 6 studies yielded support for this hypothesis. Using a correlational design, Study 1 found that decreases in significance were associated with greater readiness for self-sacrifice. Study 2 experimentally demonstrated that experiences implicating negative self-worth increased the propensity for self-sacrifice controlling for positive and negative affect. Study 3 extended findings from Study 2 to a different context, and Study 4 demonstrated that failures in an important rather than a trivial domain increased individuals’ willingness to self-sacrifice for a cause. Study 5 found evidence that the search for significance mediates the relationship between significance loss and willingness to self-sacrifice. Finally, Study 6 provided evidence that self-sacrifice increased significance more than did pleasurable experiences, suggesting it is instrumental to significance restoration after loss. Findings are discussed in light of extant self-sacrifice literature and the quest for significance theory.