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Identity fusion, outgroup relations, and sacrifice: A cross-cultural test

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Abstract

Identity fusion theory has become a popular psychological explanation of costly self-sacrifice. It posits that while maintaining one's own individual identity, a deep affinity with one's group can contribute to sacrifice for that group. We test this and related hypotheses using a behavioral economic experiment designed to detect biased, self-interested favoritism among eight different populations ranging from foragers and horticulturalists to the fully market-integrated. We find that while individuals favor themselves on average, those with higher ingroup fusion sacrifice more money to other members of their ingroup who are unable to reciprocate. We also find that positive outgroup relations has a similar effect. Additionally, we assess a recently-posited interaction between ingroup and outgroup relations and show no consistent effect at the individual or sub-sample levels.

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... Similarly, we analyzed the invariance of preexisting levels of participants' fusion with their country, which served as a moderating factor in our models. Fusion with country was measured using the seven-item Fusion Scale (Swann et al., 2009), which was previously tested in various countries (Swann et al., 2014) and whose visual analogue predicted cooperation in small-scale societies (Purzycki & Lang, 2019). After eliminating two items that increased metric variance, the configural invariance model revealed a sufficient fit to the data (CFI = .95, ...
... The absence of a moderating effect of conflict salience on our measure of activity is likely due to the fact that activity in the outgroup and environmental threat conditions was already higher compared to the no-threat baseline condition. Finally, our measure of identity fusion with one's country did not moderate any of the treatment effects on our behavioral variables, despite the fact that previous studies showed a positive correlation between identity fusion and cooperative behavior (Purzycki & Lang, 2019), and that theoretical work predicted that this relationship should strengthen during intergroup conflict (Whitehouse, 2018). ...
... with the visual identity fusion scale used in previous cross-cultural research (Purzycki & Lang, 2019 ...
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Evolutionary models and empirical evidence suggest that outgroup threat is one of the strongest factors inducing group cohesion; however, little is known about the process of forming such cohesive groups. We investigated how outgroup threat galvanizes individuals to affiliate with others to form engaged units that are willing to act on behalf of their in-group. A total of 864 participants from six countries were randomly assigned to an outgroup threat, environmental threat, or no-threat condition. We measured the process of group formation through physical proximity and movement mirroring along with activity toward threat resolution, and found that outgroup threat induced activity and heightened mirroring in males. We also observed higher mirroring and proximity in participants who perceived the outgroup threat as a real danger, albeit the latter results were imprecisely estimated. Together, these findings help understand how sharing subtle behavioral cues influences collaborative aggregation of people under threat.
... The effect of relational ties can be seen in the acts of generosity and kindness toward other in-group members among fused actors, reflecting the capacity of a fused group to comfort and support its members. For instance, fusion has predicted: supportive behaviors and empathy toward victims of the 2013 Boston bombings among Americans and 2011 Christchurch earthquake among Christchurch residents (Segal et al., 2018), willingness to give time to or support fellow army veterans (Hart & Lancaster, 2017;Whitehouse et al., 2017), generosity to a person's political party (Misch et al., 2018), willingness to help needy fellow Spaniards (Swann, Gomez, Huici, et al., 2010), donations to distant in-group members (Purzycki & Lang, 2019), and willingness to donate to a wildlife fund among past donors (Buhrmester, Burnham, et al., 2018). Relational ties ultimately allow group members to feel protected, comforted, and relieved in times of distress, thereby enabling the fused group to provide an effective safe-haven function, A fused group also provides a secure-base function in which fused actors feel encouraged and supported as individuals. ...
... There is some preliminary empirical evidence to support the fusion secure-base hypothesis. First, cross-cultural research by Purzycki and Lang (2019) tested whether fusion with a local co-religious, co-ethnic group would come at the cost of poorer out-group relations with nonlocal religious and ethnic out-group members. Fusion was unexpectedly a moderate positive predictor of out-group fusion, leading the authors to argue that fusion may represent a general measure of prosociality. ...
... However, this explanation is difficult to square with fusion's often-violent outcomes and is at odds with past research indicating that fusion to the country does not predict fusion to various other groups, such as friends, family, and religion (Swann et al., 2009). One way of reconciling these results is to note that out-group fusion measures in Purzycki and Lang (2019) were targeted at out-group members rather than the group, whereas in Swann et al. (2009), fusion was directed at the group itself. This suggests, in line with the fusion-secure base hypothesis, that in-group fusion may not predict out-group fusion per se but rather feelings of connection to, or a desire to connect with, out-group members. ...
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Identity fusion is traditionally conceptualized as innately parochial, with fused actors motivated to commit acts of violence on out-groups. However, fusion’s aggressive outcomes are largely conditional on threat perception, with its effect on benign intergroup relationships underexplored. The present article outlines the fusion-secure base hypothesis, which argues that fusion may engender cooperative relationships with out-groups in the absence of out-group threat. Fusion is characterized by four principles, each of which allows a fused group to function as a secure base in which in-group members feel safe, agentic, and supported. This elicits a secure base schema, which increases the likelihood of fused actors interacting with out-groups and forming cooperative, reciprocal relationships. Out-group threat remains an important moderator, with its presence “flipping the switch” in fused actors and promoting a willingness to violently protect the group even at significant personal cost. Suggestions for future research are explored, including pathways to intergroup fusion.
... The power of this measure lies in its applicability to any ideological or social group, such that the amount of identity fusion is quantifiable and translatable between ideologies. The identity-fusion index has been used in the context of nationalism (Bortolini et al., 2018;Jong et al., 2015;Kapitány et al., 2019;Zmigrod et al., 2018), political partisanship (Misch et al., 2018;, resilience in the face of terror ( Jong et al., 2015), and willingness to engage in extreme protest and progroup behavior (Kunst et al., 2018;Paredes et al., 2019;Purzycki & Lang, 2019). The identity-fusion index therefore satisfies the criterion of being easily content-substitutable (by altering the group label on the large circle) and by tapping into the group identification subcomponent of ideological thinking. ...
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The psychological study of ideology has traditionally emphasized the content of ideological beliefs, guided by questions about what people believe, such as why people believe in omniscient gods or fascist worldviews. This theoretical focus has led to siloed subdisciplines separately dealing with political, religious, moral, and prejudiced attitudes. The fractionation has fostered a neglect of the cognitive structure of ideological worldviews and associated questions about why ideologies—in all their forms—are so compelling to the human mind. Here I argue that it is essential to consider the nature of ideological cognition across a multitude of ideologies. I offer a multidimensional, empirically tractable framework of ideological thinking, suggesting it can be conceptualized as a style of thinking that is rigid in its adherence to a doctrine and resistance to evidence-based belief-updating and favorably oriented toward an in-group and antagonistic to out-groups. The article identifies the subcomponents of ideological thinking and highlights that ideological thinking constitutes a meaningful psychological phenomenon that merits direct scholarly investigation and analysis. By emphasizing conceptual precision, methodological directions, and interdisciplinary integration across the political and cognitive sciences, the article illustrates the potential of this framework as a catalyst for developing a rigorous domain-general psychology of ideology.
... The ethnographic record is rich with examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of rituals to bind people together and influence their behavior (e.g., Evans-Pritchard, 1937;Hallowell, 2002;Keesing, 1982;Rappaport, 1968Rappaport, , 1971Turner, 1969, to only name a few). Even in the case of (genetically) distant relatives, rituals focused on ancestor worship may help create family-like bonds between codescendants (Clark & Coe, 2021;Steadman & Palmer, 2008;Steadman et al., 1996), or what others call "identity fusion" (Purzycki & Lang, 2019;Swann et al., 2012). ...
... Indeed, the selection pressures that may have favored long-distance relationships in humans are likely distinct from those that favored between-ethnic-group relationships (Pisor & Ross, n.d.; see also Moya & Boyd, 2015). Our flexible interest in longdistance relationships is documented by literatures studying "expanding circles" of moral concern (Fessler et al., 2015;Purzycki & Lang, 2019;Singer, 1981) and the role of "superordinate identity" in promoting cooperation (Buchan et al., 2009;Pisor & Gurven, 2015): in both cases, if individuals value people farther away as potential social partners, their behavior toward them changes. ...
Article
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Objectives Long‐distance social relationships have been a feature of human evolutionary history; evidence from the paleoanthropological, archeological, and ethnographic records suggest that one function of these relationships is to manage the risk of resource shortfalls due to climate variability. We should expect long‐distance relationships to be especially important when shortfalls are chronic or temporally positively autocorrelated, as these are more likely to exhaust local adaptations for managing risk. Further, individuals who experience shortfalls not as rare shocks, but as patterned events, should be more likely to pay the costs of maintaining long‐distance relationships. We test these hypotheses in the context of two communities of Bolivian horticulturalists, where climate variability—especially precipitation variability—is relevant to production and access to long‐distance connections is improving. Methods Data on individuals' migration histories, social relationships, and other relevant variables were collected in 2017 (n = 119). Precipitation data were obtained from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, allowing us to estimate participants' exposure to drought and excess precipitation. Results Exposure duration, proximity in time, and frequency did not predict having a greater number of long‐distance relationships. Males, extraverted individuals, and those who had traveled more did have more long‐distance relationships, however. Conclusion Another function of long‐distance relationships is to access resources that can never be obtained locally; ethnographic data suggest this is their primary function in rural Bolivia. We conclude by refining our predictions about the conditions under which long‐distance relationships are likely to help individuals manage the risks posed by climate variability.
... The power of this measure lies in its applicability to any ideological or social group, such that the amount of identity fusion is quantifiable and translatable between ideologies. The identity fusion index has been used in the context of nationalism (Bortolini et al., 2018;Jong et al., 2015;Kapitany et al., 2019;Zmigrod, Rentfrow, & Robbins, 2018), political partisanship (Misch, Fergusson, & Dunham, 2018;Zmigrod, Rentfrow, & Robbins, 2019b), resilience in the face of terror (Jong et al., 2015), and willingness to engage in extreme protest and pro-group behaviour (Kunst et al., 2018;Paredes et al., 2019;Purzycki & Lang, 2019). The identity fusion index therefore satisfies the criterion of being easily contentsubstitutable (by altering the group label on the large circle) and by tapping into the group identification subcomponent of ideological thinking. ...
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Full-text available
The psychological study of ideology has traditionally emphasized the content of ideological beliefs, guided by questions about what people believe, such as why people believe in omniscient gods or fascist worldviews. This theoretical focus has led to siloed subdisciplines separately dealing with political, religious, moral, prejudiced, and racist attitudes. The fractionation has fostered a neglect of the cognitive structure of ideological worldviews and associated questions about why ideologies – in all their forms – are so compelling to the human mind. It is here argued that it is essential to consider the nature of ideological cognition across a multitude of ideologies. The review offers a multidimensional, empirically-tractable framework of ideological thinking, suggesting it can be conceptualized as a style of thinking that is rigid in its adherence to a doctrine and resistance to evidence-based belief-updating, and favourably-oriented towards an ingroup and antagonistic to outgroups. The review identifies the subcomponents of ideological thinking and highlights that ideological thinking constitutes a meaningful psychological phenomenon that merits direct scholarly investigation and analysis. By emphasizing conceptual precision, methodological directions, and interdisciplinary integration across the political and cognitive sciences, the review illustrates the potential of this framework as a catalyst for developing a rigorous domain-general psychology of ideology.
... It is critical that researchers translate the language, technological references and stimuli as well as examine the underlying cultural context of the original method for assumptions that rely upon WEIRD epistemologies [55,56]. This extends to non-complex visual aids, attempting to ensure that even scales measure what the researcher is intending (see [57] for discussion on the use of a popular economic experiment in small-scale societies). ...
Article
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The intensifying pace of research based on cross-cultural studies in the social sciences necessitates a discussion of the unique challenges of multi-sited research. Given an increasing demand for social scientists to expand their data collection beyond WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) populations, there is an urgent need for transdisciplinary conversations on the logistical, scientific and ethical considerations inherent to this type of scholarship. As a group of social scientists engaged in cross-cultural research in psychology and anthropology, we hope to guide prospective cross-cultural researchers through some of the complex scientific and ethical challenges involved in such work: (a) study site selection, (b) community involvement and (c) culturally appropriate research methods. We aim to shed light on some of the difficult ethical quandaries of this type of research. Our recommendation emphasizes a community-centred approach, in which the desires of the community regarding research approach and methodology, community involvement, results communication and distribution, and data sharing are held in the highest regard by the researchers. We argue that such considerations are central to scientific rigour and the foundation of the study of human behaviour.
... Lab research has been systematically complemented with field studies conducted with special samples, like hooligans, twins, college fraternity/sorority members, military veterans, political partisans, martial arts practitioners, fighters against the Islamic State or terrorists (e.g., Gómez et al., 2017;Kapitány et al., 2019;Newson et al., 2016;Whitehouse et al., 2017). There is even a behavioral economic experiment that contrasts the effect of fusion on eight different sociocultural groups ranging from foragers and horticulturalists to fully market-integrated individuals (Purzycki & Lang, 2019). Nonetheless, this increasing interest for the theory has come along with several misconceptions and untested research ideas. ...
Article
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Just a decade ago, two psychologists, Swann, and Gómez, developed a new theoretical framework to explain extreme pro‐group behaviors: identity fusion theory. Identity fusion refers to a visceral feeling of oneness with a group that motivates individuals to do extraordinary self‐sacrifices on behalf of the group or each of its members. Since the formulation of the theory, interdisciplinary researchers of the five continents have conducted dozens of studies on identity fusion, both in laboratory and field settings. Research has deepened into the causes, consequences, underlying mechanisms, and applications of identity fusion. The development of fusion‐based research has been steadfast and very prolific. Hence, the first section of the current manuscript includes an updated overview of this fast growing literature. This increasing interest for the theory has, however, been accompanied by a series of misconceptions and untested research assumptions, which we address in the second and third sections of the paper, concluding with a final section suggesting a future research agenda. Our aim is to help those interested in knowing more about identity fusion or about the causal mechanisms that lead individuals to risk their life and personal well‐being for a group discarding common misconceptions as well as formulating more precise and nuanced hypotheses for future research.
... with, and similarity to, the OUTGROUP were held constant (c.f. [48]). This relationship suggests that 7 ...
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... In this DG, we observed a positive correlation between punishment-monitoring ratings and allocations to OUTGROUPs; however, this coefficient was not robust across different model specifications and only emerged as significant at conventional levels when both people's relationship with, and similarity to, the OUTGROUP were held constant (cf. [47]). This relationship suggests that when groups are sufficiently similar and maintain prior favourable relationships, belief in punishing and monitoring gods may deter extremely selfish treatment of outgroup members in the DG (i.e. ...
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The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to such mechanisms being constrained to the religious ingroup, possibly at the expense of religious outgroups. To test these hypotheses, we administered two behav-ioural experiments and a set of interviews to a sample of 2228 participants from 15 diverse populations. These populations included foragers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, and wage labourers, practicing Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, but also forms of animism and ancestor worship. Using the Random Allocation Game (RAG) and the Dictator Game (DG) in which individuals allocated money between themselves, local and geographically distant co-religionists, and religious outgroups, we found that higher ratings of gods as monitoring and punishing predicted decreased local favouritism (RAGs) and increased resource-sharing with distant co-religionists (DGs). The effects of punishing and monitoring gods on out-group allocations revealed between-site variability, suggesting that in the absence of intergroup hostility, moralizing gods may be implicated in cooperative behaviour toward outgroups. These results provide support for the hypothesis that beliefs in monitoring and punitive gods help expand the circle of sustainable social interaction, and open questions about the treatment of religious outgroups.
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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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Anthropologists have documented substantial cross-society variation in people's willingness to treat strangers with impartial, universal norms versus favoring members of their local community. Researchers have proposed several adaptive accounts for these differences. One variant of the pathogen stress hypothesis predicts that people will be more likely to favor local in-group members when they are under greater infectious disease threat. The material security hypothesis instead proposes that institutions that permit people to meet their basic needs through impartial interactions with strangers reinforce a tendency toward impartiality, whereas people lacking such institutions must rely on local community members to meet their basic needs. Some studies have examined these hypotheses using self-reported preferences, but not with behavioral measures. We conducted behavioral experiments in eight diverse societies that measure individuals' willingness to favor in-group members by ignoring an impartial rule. Consistent with the material security hypothesis, members of societies enjoying better-quality government services and food security show a stronger preference for following an impartial rule over investing in their local in-group. Our data show no support for the pathogen stress hypothesis as applied to favoring in-groups and instead suggest that favoring in-group members more closely reflects a general adaptive fit with social institutions that have arisen in each society.
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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).
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Everyday language suggests that spatial metaphors are used to describe one's relation to a group and the relation between two groups. Building on previous work in the domain of interpersonal relations, three graphical items for the overlap of self and ingroup, self and outgroup, and ingroup and outgroup are proposed. Three survey studies with different types of groups show the convergent validity of these items. Assessments of subjective interpretations of the graphical scales corroborate the correlational evidence. Finally, an experimental study con®rms that the corre- lations between the three items are sensible indicators of self-categorization as determined by the intergroup context. For describing our relation to a group, we often use the language of spatial meta- phors: We enter or leave a group; we distance ourselves from a group or are in the inner circle. Finally, we can be simply in a group, which then becomes an ingroup: The interrelational constructs (Higgins & Chaires, 1980) in and out denoting ingroup and outgroup are spatial metaphors. In many cases, this language ®ts the actual behavior in the social environment, where attitudes between social groups are expressed in spatial arrangements (Campbell, Kruskal, & Wallace, 1966). However, social psychological concepts for one's relation to a group, such as identi®cation and self-categorization, in general ignore the spatial dimension. The present research shows that one's relation to a group and the perception of the intergroup context can be assessed with graphical measures that depict spatial relations. We will ®rst review previous approaches in this direction, and then propose a new scale. Convergent and discriminant validity of the scale is demonstrated in four validation studies and one experimental study.
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Identity fusion is a relatively unexplored form of alignment with groups that entails a visceral feeling of oneness with the group. This feeling is associated with unusually porous, highly permeable borders between the personal and social self. These porous borders encourage people to channel their personal agency into group behavior, raising the possibility that the personal and social self will combine synergistically to motivate pro-group behavior. Furthermore, the strong personal as well as social identities possessed by highly fused persons cause them to recognize other group members not merely as members of the group but also as unique individuals, prompting the development of strong relational as well as collective ties within the group. In local fusion, people develop relational ties to members of relatively small groups (e.g., families or work teams) with whom they have personal relationships. In extended fusion, people project relational ties onto relatively large collectives composed of many individuals with whom they may have no personal relationships. The research literature indicates that measures of fusion are exceptionally strong predictors of extreme pro-group behavior. Moreover, fusion effects are amplified by augmenting individual agency, either directly (by increasing physiological arousal) or indirectly (by activating personal or social identities). The effects of fusion on pro-group actions are mediated by perceptions of arousal and invulnerability. Possible causes of identity fusion--ranging from relatively distal, evolutionary, and cultural influences to more proximal, contextual influences--are discussed. Finally, implications and future directions are considered.
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Previous research has documented the consequences of feeling fused with a group; here we examine the nature of identity fusion. Specifically, we sought to determine what fusion is and the mediating mechanisms that lead fused individuals to make extraordinary sacrifices for their group. Guided by the assumption that fusion emphasizes the extent to which people develop relational ties to the group, we developed a measure designed to capture feelings of connectedness and reciprocal strength with the group. In 10 studies, the newly developed scale displayed predicted relationships with related measures, including an earlier (pictorial) measure of fusion and a measure of group identification. Also as expected, fusion scores were independent of several measures of personality and identity. Moreover, the scale predicted endorsement of extreme progroup behaviors with greater fidelity than did an earlier pictorial measure of identity fusion, which was, in turn, superior to a measure of group identification. Earlier evidence that the personal and social selves of fused persons are functionally equivalent was replicated, and it was shown that feelings of agency and invulnerability mediated the effects of fusion on extreme behavior. Finally, Spanish- and English-language versions of the verbal fusion scale showed similar factor structure as well as evidence of convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity in samples of Spaniards and Americans, as well as immigrants from 22 different countries. This work advances a new perspective on the interplay between social and personal identity.
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Identity fusion is a feeling of oneness with the group that induces people to tether their feelings of personal agency to the group. We accordingly proposed that increasing the agency of fused persons by elevating autonomic arousal would amplify their tendency to endorse and actually enact pro-ingroup behavior. In 4 experiments, increasing autonomic arousal through physical exercise elevated heart rates and fusion-unrelated activity among all participants. Fused participants, however, uniquely responded to arousal by translating elevated agency into endorsement of pro-group activity. These effects emerged both for endorsement of extreme behaviors for the group and for overt behaviors, specifically helping behavior (donating money to needy in-group members), and the speed with which participants raced a fusion-related avatar. The effects also generalized across 3 different arousal inductions (dodgeball, wind sprints, and Exercycle). Finally, fusion-related agency partially mediated the interactive effects of fusion and arousal on pro-group behavior. Apparently, autonomic arousal increases agency and identity fusion channels increased agency into pro-group behavior.
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The authors propose that when people become fused with a group, their personal and social identities become functionally equivalent. Two hypotheses follow from this proposition. First, activating either personal or social identities of fused persons should increase their willingness to endorse extreme behaviors on behalf of the group. Second, because personal as well as social identities support group-related behaviors of fused persons, the 2 forms of identity may combine synergistically, fostering exceptionally high levels of extreme behavior. Support for these hypotheses came from 5 preliminary studies and 3 experiments. In particular, fused persons were more willing to fight or die for the group than nonfused persons, especially when their personal or social identities had been activated. The authors conclude that among fused persons, both the personal and social self may energize and direct group-related behavior. Implications for related theoretical approaches and for conceptualizing the relationship between personal identities, social identities, and group processes are discussed.
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Whether upheld as heroic or reviled as terrorism, throughout history people have been willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their groups. Why? Previous theories of extreme self-sacrifice have highlighted a range of seemingly disparate factors such as collective identity, outgroup hostility, and kin psychology. This paper attempts to integrate many of these factors into a single overarching theory based on several decades of collaborative research with a range of special populations, from tribes in Papua New Guinea to Libyan insurgents, and from Muslim fundamentalists in Indonesia to Brazilian football hooligans. These studies suggest that extreme self-sacrifice is motivated by ‘identity fusion’, a visceral sense of oneness with the group resulting from intense collective experiences (e.g. painful rituals or the horrors of frontline combat) or from perceptions of shared biology. In ancient foraging societies, fusion would have enabled warlike bands to stand united despite strong temptations to scatter and flee. The fusion mechanism has often been exploited in cultural rituals, not only by tribal societies but also in specialized cells embedded in armies, cults, and terrorist organizations. With the rise of social complexity and the spread of states and empires, fusion has also been extended to much larger groups, including doctrinal religions, ethnicities, and ideological movements. Explaining extreme self-sacrifice is not only a scientific priority but also a practical challenge as we seek a collective response to suicide terrorism and other extreme expressions of outgroup hostility that continue to bedevil humanity today.
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Current research suggests that certain features of religion can harness our sociality in important ways, curbing selfish behavior and/or boosting prosocial behavior. If this is the case, embodied symbols of religious devotion should induce these effects. To test the claim that religious symbolism has an effect on sociality, we conducted the Random Allocation Game with a symbolic prime in Pesqueiro, on the island of Marajó, Brazil, among Christians. Our prime – a Bible and a crucifix pendant – appears to have influenced the allocations made toward distant co-religionists; people who played the game in the prime condition allocated more coins to the distant co-religionist. Additionally, self-reported beliefs about God’s knowledge and punishment had strong effects on fair gameplay across games.
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The coexistence of Christian and traditional “Kastom” beliefs on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu provides an especially interesting environment in which to investigate the association between religion and cooperation. Here I use an experimental economic game together with ethnographic and survey data to compare religious beliefs and practices and their association with cooperative behavior across two communities – one predominantly Christian and one predominantly Kastom. Results show some evidence of bias in favor of the self in the Kastom but not the Christian village, although the overall allocations are not significantly different between villages. Allocations to self or own village were generally lower for those who professed belief in a more omniscient and rewarding supernatural agent and for those who engaged in ritual acts of devotion more frequently, although the relationship with ritual devotion and local garden spirit beliefs varied across sites. These findings highlight intriguing differences between the two sites and provide some support for the hypothesis that elements of religion may function to facilitate the expansion of cooperation to co-religionists beyond the local community.
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We investigate how religious beliefs in an omnipotent, omniscient God vs. locally concerned, more limited gods impact prosocial behavior at varying degrees of social distance. We recruit participants from traditional villages on Yasawa Island, Fiji. Yasawan religion includes belief in both universalistic Christian teachings and local deified ancestor spirits (Kalou-vu). Yasawans’ contrasting reliance on local, kin-based social networks and anonymous economic market exchange provides an interesting test case for how religious beliefs interact with wider social structures. We use an experimental priming procedure to test whether reminders of Christian vs. traditional imagery, as compared to neutral, influence local or self-favoritism in the random allocation game (RAG). We find that traditional imagery caused increased local – but not self – favoritism. Priming effects depended upon perceived resource uncertainty: participants primed with Christian imagery were most likely to allocate to distant co-religionists when they were least worried about resources. However, more uncertainty predicted higher local RAG allocations, further suggesting the importance of local social networks for managing such uncertainty. We further find additional support for previous findings that prosocial effects of punitive supernatural agent beliefs depend upon uncertainty. These findings further emphasize the interplay between contents of cultural forms like religious belief and socioecological context.
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Our species’ biological success is unsurpassed – an achievement largely accredited to our remarkable capacity to cooperate. Large-scale cooperation, however, remains a puzzle. Recent work suggests that belief in the existence of omnipresent and omnipotent moralistic deities may have contributed to the emergence and maintenance of cooperation in large-scale societies. This study examines the relationship between religiosity and cooperation in the Hadza, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer populations in the world. Hadza were surveyed about their religious beliefs and participated in two incentivized economic games, designed to measure rule-bending in favor of one’s campmates (game 1) and self (game 2) at the expense of Hadza living in other camps. Consistent with previous ethnographic descriptions, the Hadza engage in few religious practices and lack a strong belief in the existence of powerful and moralizing deities. The Hadza also show very high levels of rule-bending. There is, however, little evidence that belief in moralistic deities is associated with decreased rule-bending within the Hadza. Instead, the findings suggest that rule-bending for one’s campmates increases as the proportion of kin in one’s camp increases. Also, Hadza living in a geographic region close to markets and increased tourism exhibit greater rule-bending in favor of self compared to more isolated Hadza. The high levels of rule-bending and low levels of religiosity observed in the Hadza are discussed in light of the strong norms of sharing and egalitarianism that characterize their lives.
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Current research suggests that commitment to moralistic, omniscient, and punitive gods may contribute to the evolution of cooperation. As they may curb antisocial behaviors that incur costly social repercussions, supernatural punishment may help stabilize reciprocal relationships among peers. One recent elaboration of this hypothesis posits that commitment to such gods may boost prosociality to the point that it expands cooperation beyond one’s family and local community. Using three permutations of an experimental game designed to measure impartial fairness, the present study tests this hypothesis among Buddhists from the Tyva Republic. Contrary to the expanded sociality hypothesis, we found that key features of local spirits and Buddha systematically predict favoritism toward co-religionists from one’s community rather than fairness toward co-religionists from distant towns. Moreover, important indicators of class – years of formal education, material insecurity, and fluency in the Tyvan language – also predict favoritism toward local Buddhists rather than geographically distant Buddhists. We used a Buddhist protection charm as a prime condition that showed no simple effects across games, but did interact with key religious variables. Importantly, when players had a stake in the game and played against anonymous, geographically distant Buddhists, if the experiment reminded them of the Buddhist temple or charity, they were fairer toward the distant co-religionist.
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In The Hadza, Frank Marlowe provides a quantitative ethnography of one of the last remaining societies of hunter-gatherers in the world. The Hadza, who inhabit an area of East Africa near the Serengeti and Olduvai Gorge, have long drawn the attention of anthropologists and archaeologists for maintaining a foraging lifestyle in a region that is key to understanding human origins. Marlowe ably applies his years of research with the Hadza to cover the traditional topics in ethnography-subsistence, material culture, religion, and social structure. But the book's unique contribution is to introduce readers to the more contemporary field of behavioral ecology, which attempts to understand human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. To that end, The Hadza also articulates the necessary background for readers whose exposure to human evolutionary theory is minimal.
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This paper exploits two variants of the “mind game” to show how a subtle variation in the rules of the game affects cheating. In both variants of the game, cheating is invisible because subjects make their choices purely in their minds. The only difference rests on the order of the steps in which subjects should play the game. I find that the order of play has a significant impact on cheating behavior, even though the rules are not enforceable.
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In 2 studies, the Inclusion of Other in the Self (IOS) Scale, a single-item, pictorial measure of closeness, demonstrated alternate-form and test–retest reliability; convergent validity with the Relationship Closeness Inventory (E. Berscheid et al, 1989), the R. J. Sternberg (1988) Intimacy Scale, and other measures; discriminant validity; minimal social desirability correlations; and predictive validity for whether romantic relationships were intact 3 mo later. Also identified and cross-validated were (1) a 2-factor closeness model (Feeling Close and Behaving Close) and (2) longevity–closeness correlations that were small for women vs moderately positive for men. Five supplementary studies showed convergent and construct validity with marital satisfaction and commitment and with a reaction-time (RT)-based cognitive measure of closeness in married couples; and with intimacy and attraction measures in stranger dyads following laboratory closeness-generating tasks. In 3 final studies most Ss interpreted IOS Scale diagrams as depicting interconnectedness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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We extend and improve two existing methods of generating random correlation matrices, the onion method of Ghosh and Henderson [S. Ghosh, S.G. Henderson, Behavior of the norta method for correlated random vector generation as the dimension increases, ACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation (TOMACS) 13 (3) (2003) 276-294] and the recently proposed method of Joe [H. Joe, Generating random correlation matrices based on partial correlations, Journal of Multivariate Analysis 97 (2006) 2177-2189] based on partial correlations. The latter is based on the so-called D-vine. We extend the methodology to any regular vine and study the relationship between the multiple correlation and partial correlations on a regular vine. We explain the onion method in terms of elliptical distributions and extend it to allow generating random correlation matrices from the same joint distribution as the vine method. The methods are compared in terms of time necessary to generate 5000 random correlation matrices of given dimensions.
The dynamic identity fusion index: A new continuous measure of identity fusion for web-based questionnaires
  • J Jiménez
  • Á G'ømez
  • M D Buhrmester
  • A Vázquez
  • H Whitehouse
  • W B Swann
Jiménez, J., G'ømez, Á., Buhrmester, M. D., Vázquez, A., Whitehouse, H., & Swann, W. B. (2016). The dynamic identity fusion index: A new continuous measure of identity fusion for web-based questionnaires. Social Science Computer Review, 34(2), 215-228.
Dying and killing for one's group: Identity fusion moderates responses to intergroup versions of the trolley problem
  • W B Swann
  • Á Gómez
  • J Dovidio
  • S Hart
  • J Jetten
Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Dovidio, J., Hart, S., & Jetten, J. (2010a). Dying and killing for one's group: Identity fusion moderates responses to intergroup versions of the trolley problem. Psychological Science, 21(8), 1176-1183.