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The Great Replacement Conspiracy: How the Perceived Ousting of Whites Can Evoke Violent Extremism and Islamophobia

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Abstract and Figures

Increased immigration and demographic changes have not only resulted in political pushback, but also in violent attacks against immigrants. Several recent terrorist attacks committed by White supremacists invoke rhetoric around a deliberate attempt to make Whites extinct and replace them with non-Western immigrants. Yet, while it is widely acknowledged among extremism researchers that this perception of orchestrated extinction or replacement has tremendous potential to lead to violent extremism, its consequences have not yet been directly examined. Using the Scandinavian context (e.g., Denmark and Norway), in two correlational studies and one experiment, we provide evidence that this perception is associated with the persecution of Muslims, violent intentions, and Islamophobia. Further, we demonstrate that these associations are mediated by symbolic threats. Conspiracy beliefs that one’s group is being replaced seems to drive hostile intergroup attitudes. We discuss the societal implications of this finding (i.e., generating fear, polarization and hostile public opinion towards immigrants).
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DOI: 10.1177/13684302211028293
Group Processes &
Intergroup Relations
Most of all show the invaders that our lands
will never be their lands, our homelands are
our own and that, as long as a White man
still lives, they will NEVER conquer our
lands and they will never replace our people.
(Brenton Harrison Tarrant
[the Christchurch terrorist], 2019).
The “Great Replacement” conspiracy:
How the perceived ousting of Whites
can evoke violent extremism and
Milan Obaidi,1 Jonas Kunst,1 Simon Ozer2
and Sasha Y. Kimel3
Increased immigration and demographic changes have not only resulted in political pushback, but also
in violent attacks against immigrants. Several recent terrorist attacks committed by White supremacists
invoke rhetoric around a deliberate attempt to make Whites extinct and replace them with non-Western
immigrants. Yet, while it is widely acknowledged among extremism researchers that this perception
of orchestrated extinction or replacement has tremendous potential to lead to violent extremism, its
consequences have not yet been directly examined. Using the Scandinavian context (e.g., Denmark and
Norway), in two correlational studies and one experiment, we provide evidence that this perception
is associated with the persecution of Muslims, violent intentions, and Islamophobia. Further, we
demonstrate that these associations are mediated by symbolic threats. Conspiracy beliefs that one’s
group is being replaced seem to drive hostile intergroup attitudes. We discuss the societal implications
of this finding (i.e., generating fear, polarization, and hostile public opinion towards immigrants).
“Great Replacement” conspiracy, Islamophobia, majority-minority society, radicalization, threat
perceptions, violent extremism
Paper received 3 February 2021; revised version accepted 8 June 2021.
1Oslo University, Norway
2Aarhus University, Denmark
3California State University, San Marcos, USA
Corresponding author:
Milan Obaidi, Department of Psychology, University of
Oslo, Forskningsveien 3A, 0373 Oslo, Norway.
1028293GPI0010.1177/13684302211028293Group Processes & Intergroup RelationsObaidi et al.
2 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
Europe is no longer Europe, it is “Eurabia,”
a colony of Islam, where the Islamic
invasion does not proceed only in a physical
sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.
(Oriana Fallaci quoted in Varadarajan, 2005).
On Friday March 15, 2019, Brenton Harrison
Tarrant entered two mosques in Christchurch,
New Zealand. There, he gunned down over 50
Muslim worshipers. The morning before the
massacre, Tarrant released a manifesto entitled
the “Great Replacement.” In it, he accused liberal
politicians of deliberately engineering the extinc-
tion or replacement of White Westerners through
mass immigration of non-Whites. Rooted in
Nazi-era writings, this conspiracy, which also
argues that a “race war” is inevitable (Williams,
2017), has recently been repurposed by the far
right (Serwer, 2019). Indeed, it gained promi-
nence in 2011 with the publication of Le Grand
Replacement by Renaud Camus—a book (Camus,
R, 2011) that has been argued to have played a
vital role in Tarrant’s radicalization (Davey &
Ebner, 2019). Importantly, this conspiracy has
had world-wide reach. For example, the 2019
Walmart El Paso shooter who killed 20 people
and wounded 26 others near the US–Mexican
border wrote in his manifesto that “in general, I
support the Christchurch shooter and his mani-
festo. This attack is a response to the Hispanic
invasion of Texas” (Arango et al., 2019). Likewise,
the recent shooters in the US including
Charleston, Pittsburgh, and Poway as well as in
Munich, Germany used similar language and jus-
tifications (Chavez et al., 2018; Miller, 2019).
Examining whether and how the prevalence
of extreme anti-immigrant attitudes is impacted
by rhetoric adopting aspects of the “Great
Replacement” conspiracy (i.e., the argument that
White populations are being replaced at an ethnic
and cultural level through mass migration; Davey
& Ebner, 2019) is of great theoretical and practi-
cal interest for several reasons. First, such ideas
are no longer limited to the outer fringes of the
public discourse, as the proponents of this con-
spiracy can now be found in mainstream politics,
the media, and the general public (Bellware,
2019). For example, recently leaked emails show
the former White House senior advisor Stephen
Miller promoting far-right extremist, White
nationalist ideas, and anti-immigrant rhetoric
through the conservative website Breitbart.
Importantly too, he appeared fixated on the pros-
pect of a “White genocide” (i.e., a conspiracy
theory associated with White supremacists prop-
agating the idea that the White race is dying due
to growing non-White populations; Bellware,
2019). Second, in recent years, extreme-right par-
ties have sought to leverage the majority group’s
fear of replacement. For instance, the conspiracy
has been fundamental in fueling “nativist” cam-
paigns like the one by Alexander Gauland,
coleader of the far-right Alternative for Germany
Party who, before the 2017 German election,
made “The Great Replacement” the title of a
news release (Bennhold, 2019). Third, although
considerable research has examined the impact
of the perceived size of outgroups on one’s hos-
tility towards those same groups (e.g., Alba et al.,
2005; Craig & Richeson, 2014a, 2014b; Danbold
& Huo, 2015; Outten et al., 2012), it appears that
the specific impact of perceiving that there is a
planned attempt to replace one’s group with
another has not yet been examined. Importantly,
the “Great Replacement” is fundamentally dis-
tinct. Whereas demographic changes and out-
group size are linked to concerns about loss of a
privileged majority status and disruption of the
existing social hierarchy (Mutz, 2018), the replace-
ment conspiracy theory taps onto the perception
that White people are facing existential decline
—even extinction—because of the planned pro-
liferation of immigration. Finally, research on
how perceived demographic shifts impact violent
extremism specifically (i.e., “a violent type of
mobilization that aims to elevate the status of
one group, while excluding or dominating its
‘others’ based on markers, such as gender, reli-
gion, culture and ethnicity”; Bak et al., 2019, p. 8)
is largely missing. Thus, understanding the impli-
cations of this conspiracy is of urgent societal
and theoretical importance.
Obaidi et al. 3
The “Great Replacement” and
Violent Extremism
In recent years, the “Great Replacement” con-
spiracy has not only gained prominence among
right-wing extremists but has also found a foot-
hold among right-wing populist political parties
in Europe. For example, while evoking anti-Mus-
lim and anti-immigrant sentiment, such ideas
have been espoused by the former leader of the
Danish People’s Party Pia Kjærsgaard, the Prime
Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán, the Italian
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, and the leader
of the far-right movement Rassemblement
National Marine Le Pen (Alduy, 2017; Kingsley,
2019; Kjærsgaard, 2020). Various conservative
intellectuals and far-right organizations have also
utilized language that stokes fear about the
decline of the “White race” and “White identity.
For instance, in an interview in the Wall Street
Journal in 2006, Mark Steyn, a prominent propo-
nent of “Eurabia” (i.e., a term coined to describe
an alleged Islamization and Arabization of
Europe), claimed that by the year 2025 “Europe
will be 40 percent Muslim and much of what we
loosely call the Western world will not survive
this century” (Steyn quoted in Carr, 2006; see also
Steyn, 2005). Meanwhile, anti-Muslim organiza-
tions such as the German PEGIDA movement
and the European White-nativist movement
Generation Identity (GI) have espoused similar
views. For example, GI—one of Europe’s fastest
growing far-right movements that advocates for
an ethnically and culturally homogenous
Europe—portrays immigrants as invaders while
playing a prominent role in promoting, popular-
izing, and disseminating the “Great Replacement”
conspiracy (Cox & Meisel, 2018; Feder &
Maplestone, 2019).
Although scholars have dismissed the demo-
graphic projections propagated by the “Great
Replacement” as erroneous and nonscientific
(see Alba, 2018; Alba et al., 2005), some warn that
this conspiracy may have tremendous potential to
lead to violent extremism (see Davey & Ebner,
2019). For instance, according to Peter Neumann,
Director of the International Center for the
Study of Radicalization at King’s College London,
“they [the GI] promote an idea that is taken by
some people to justify violence. It is not directly
responsible for the violence—but it enables it”
(Neumann quoted in Bennhold, 2019). Moreover,
according to the 3N model of radicalization
(Bélanger et al., 2019), the “Great Replacement”
conspiracy is likely to lead to violence by way of
three factors: need (i.e., one’s desire for signifi-
cance), narrative (i.e., an ideological framework
that provides moral justification), and network
(i.e., the presence of others who share similar
views). More specifically, when Whites’ need for
significance is lost, such individuals may be more
likely to believe the narrative that violence is an
acceptable way to restore it and to want to join a
network of like-minded individuals (e.g., right-
wing extremists).
The Relationship Between
Outgroup Size and Outgroup
Increasing racial and ethnic diversity has trig-
gered a sense of cultural loss or threat among
Whites which, in turn, may precipitate this
group’s animosities towards other racial and eth-
nic groups (Craig & Richeson, 2014a, 2014b;
Danbold & Huo, 2015; Jardina, 2019). Whereas
it has been demonstrated that both the perceived
and actual size of a minority group are associ-
ated with outgroup prejudice (e.g., Allport, 1954;
Blalock, 1967), within the European context,
research suggests that it is specifically the per-
ceived size of the group that predicts negativity
toward the foreign population (Strabac, 2011; see
also Krueger & Pischke, 1997). Such findings are
supported by several additional studies carried
out in the European context. More specifically,
these studies found a positive relationship
between the relative size of outgroups and dif-
ferent derogative manifestations against them
(e.g., Schlueter & Scheepers, 2010). For instance,
the perceived relative size of a minority group
was associated with ethnic exclusionary practices
and strict immigration policies among majority
members (Gorodzeisky & Semyonov, 2009), a
4 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
general dislike and negative behavioral intentions
toward outgroups (i.e., not buying a car from an
immigrant; Schlueter et al., 2008), opposition to
civil rights for legal migrants (Scheepers et al.,
2002), support for racial segregation (Card et al.,
2008), a decrease in prosocial behavior (e.g.,
donations; Adida et al., 2016), support for far-
right and extremist voting (Dinas et al., 2019;
Steinmayr, 2018; Vertier et al., 2018) as well as
antiforeign (Semyonov et al., 2006), anti-immi-
grant (Schneider, 2008), and anti-Muslim atti-
tudes (Savelkoul et al., 2010). Further, a recent
natural experiment showed that mere exposure
to a large number of refugees makes the autoch-
thonous population (i.e., in this case, native
Greeks) more hostile toward refugees, immi-
grants, and Muslim minorities (Hangartner et al.,
2019). Yet, despite considerable research linking
outgroup size to outgroup bias in a European
context, research linking this to extremism spe-
cifically, is limited. As far as we know, the only
study to examine this relation used data from
various terrorism databases and found that the
number of domestic right-wing terrorist attacks
in a country was related to increased immigration
flows, yet only in terms of non-European immi-
gration (McAlexander, 2019). Moreover, this
study did not directly examine the link between
perceived replacement and anti-immigrant
resentment. Further, the study was based on sec-
ondary data and, as such, it cannot establish cau-
sality, nor does it rule out spurious associations
and alternative explanations.
Outside the European context, experimental
studies and nationally representative samples
(e.g., General Social Surveys in North America)
have also demonstrated a link between the per-
ceived numerical size of minorities and various
outcomes. More specifically, it has been linked to
support for conservative ideologies (Craig &
Richeson, 2014b), the Tea Party (Willer et al.,
2016), far-right political candidates (Mutz, 2018),
and anti-Black and anti-Hispanic attitudes (Alba
et al., 2005). Furthermore, research demonstrated
a link between the level of hostility toward
minorities (e.g., Hispanics) and a recent increase
in migration of minority groups (Green et al.,
1998; Lyons, 2008; Stacey et al., 2011). This is in
line with newer findings illustrating that domi-
nant groups (e.g., White men) become less toler-
ant (Danbold & Huo, 2015) and express higher
degrees of anger and fear of racial minorities
when they are exposed to demographic projec-
tions suggesting that they will become a numeri-
cal minority (Outten et al., 2012). For instance,
Whites report higher levels of prototypicality
threat when they are exposed to information
about their group’s numerical decline, leading to a
rise in prejudice and hostility toward immigrants
and racial minorities (Danbold & Huo, 2017).
Taken together, there is robust evidence in
both European and non-European contexts that
people develop outgroup bias toward groups that
are perceived to be growing in size. However,
research has yet to directly test whether extreme
anti-immigrant resentment is rooted in a belief
that one’s group is being replaced or may become
extinct specifically. Moreover, despite the anecdo-
tal associations between the discourse of the
“Great Replacement” conspiracy and extremism
(i.e., the rise of the anti-immigrant far-right and
neo-Nazi political organizations and far-right vio-
lence), to the best of our knowledge, empirical
studies of this link are lacking. Furthermore, the
association with intergroup hostility more broadly
(e.g., Islamophobia) also appears to be a neglected
area of research.
The Potential Mediating Role of
Symbolic and Realistic Threats
Several scholars have proposed that the impend-
ing racial demographic change associated with
outgroup negativity and antiminority attitudes
(e.g., Blalock, 1967; Craig & Richeson, 2017;
Craig et al., 2018; Danbold & Huo, 2015;
Schlueter & Scheepers, 2010) is mediated by per-
ceived threat to the economic, social, and cultural
standing of the dominant group (Craig &
Richeson, 2014b, 2017). This suggests that major-
ity group members not only use the relative group
size to make inferences about their group’s loss
of power and hierarchical status but also see the
demographic changes as threat to their
Obaidi et al. 5
socioeconomic and cultural standing in society.
Indeed, members of majority groups often per-
ceive the growing number of minorities as either
symbolic threats (i.e., to a group’s culture, norms,
values, religion, and identity; Blinder, 2013;
Semyonov et al., 2006) or realistic threats (e.g., to
a group’s physical and material welfare; Ashmore,
& Del Boca, 1976). Through intercultural interac-
tions—such as international immigration—fear-
driven and defensive reactions can emerge in
relation to cultural mixing and the experience of
cultural contamination (Torelli et al., 2011). In
relation to this, perceived symbolic and realistic
threats are significant as they can have largely
destructive effects on such intergroup relations
by activating negative attitudes and behavior
addressed toward outgroup members (Stephan &
Stephan, 1993). Indeed, the predictive power of
symbolic and realistic threat perceptions for out-
group hostility and aggression has been estab-
lished by a long line of research (Bueno de
Mesquita, 2007). For instance, the anticipated
decreasing gap in racial demographics between
majority and minority groups in the US led to
threat perceptions among White Americans,
resulting in negative racial attitudes and emotions
(Craig & Richeson, 2014a; Myers & Levy, 2018;
Outten et al., 2012). Relevant to the present
paper, various studies document that the relation-
ship between outgroup size and outgroup nega-
tivity is mainly mediated by perceptions of
threatened group interests (Craig & Richeson,
2014a, 2014b, 2017; Outten et al., 2012; Quillian,
1995; Schlueter & Scheepers, 2010; Schneider,
2008). More specifically, previous research has
shown that the impending “majority-minority”
shift can trigger more cultural threats (Craig &
Richeson, 2017a; Danbold & Huo, 2015).
Research also supports the link between sym-
bolic and realistic threat perceptions and endorse-
ment of violence specifically (Obaidi, Kunst,
et al., 2018; Ozer, Obaidi, & Pfattheicher, 2020).
However, the perceived size of an outgroup has
been shown to be associated with realistic threats
to a lesser degree than conflict over values and
cultural issues (i.e., symbolic), which in turn may
primarily lead to negative outgroup attitudes
(McAlexander, 2019; Piazza, 2017; Schneider,
2008). Crucially, recent correlational evidence sug-
gests that symbolic threats might rally support for
outgroup violence to a greater extent than realistic
threats (Obaidi, Kunst, et al., 2018). This research
is also in line with the literature on immigrant
exclusion, showing that immigrant exclusion is
driven primarily by symbolic threat perceptions
rather than realistic threat perceptions (Bansak
et al., 2016; Hainmueller & Hopkins, 2014).
Hence, in the current paper, we predicted that the
perceived demographic increase of immigrants
and Muslims, in particular as propagated by the
“Great Replacement” conspiracy, would be more
strongly associated with symbolic (rather than
realistic) threat perceptions and this, in turn,
would be related to extreme types of outgroup
hostility (e.g., violence).
The Present Research
To the best of our knowledge, the present set of
studies is the first to investigate the relationship
between perceived replacement of the White
autochthonous population and outgroup nega-
tivity of any kind. All studies were conducted in
the Scandinavian nations of Denmark and
Norway as both are experiencing an increase in
anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, and
“Great Replacement” rhetoric (Bilefsky, 2006;
Lange, 2016; Pedersen, 2019). For instance,
Denmark is well known for the Muhammad cari-
cature published by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten,
which was meant to be a response to the per-
ceived Islamization of Denmark and its threat to
Danish cultural norms (Hervik, 2012). Further,
in Denmark, politicians, the media, and the pub-
lic have—for a long time—adopted anti-Muslim
and anti-immigration rhetoric, which closely
mirrors the language employed by the propo-
nents of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy
(Bilefsky, 2006; Pedersen, 2019). It has been
argued that this rhetoric has fueled hostile atti-
tudes against the Muslim population to an extent
where 28% of all ethnic Danes fully or partially
support the expulsion of Muslims (Reiermann &
Andersen, 2019).
6 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
Similarly, in Norway, left-wing youth and gov-
ernmental facilities were the targets of a terrorist
attack committed by the White supremacist
Anders Behring Breivik, who justified his killings
by referring to a perceived Islamization of
Norway and whose manifesto heavily relied on
the “Great Replacement” conspiracy (Fekete,
2012). Many public figures and politicians in
Norway have also propagated this trend. For
instance, a member of the right-wing Progress
Party in Norway, Per-Willy Amundsen, warned
of a “replacement of the population” (Lange,
2016). Against this background, Denmark and
Norway were considered ideal European con-
texts in which to conduct our studies.
Conducted in Denmark, Studies 1 and 2
examined our hypotheses using a correlational
design and measures of both general (e.g.,
Islamophobia) and extreme negative attitudes—
violent behavioral intentions towards outgroups
(i.e., willingness to use violence to defend one’s
group; Obaidi, Kunst, et al., 2018) and support
for the violent persecution of Muslims (i.e., will-
ingness to participate in the socially sanctioned
persecution of Muslims; Altemeyer, 1996)—
while testing, in line with previous research,
whether symbolic versus realistic threats would
mediate this relationship (Bansak et al., 2016;
Hainmueller & Hopkins, 2014; Obaidi,
Thomsen, & Bergh, 2018; Raiya et al., 2008).
Conducted in Norway, Study 3 manipulated per-
ceived replacement and examined its causal
effect on Islamophobia specifically (i.e., the fear
of and indiscriminate negative attitudes, emo-
tions, and hostility toward Muslims and the
Islamic faith; Jupskås & Leidig, 2020; Lee et al.,
2009) via symbolic and realistic threats.
Study 1
Study 1 examined the relationship between per-
ceived replacement of the White autochthonous
population (e.g., ethnic Danes) and outgroup
negativity (e.g., Muslim persecution, violent
intentions, and Islamophobia) while testing
whether symbolic rather than realistic threats
would mediate this relationship.
Participants and procedure. Following Harvard and
University of Oslo’s ethics board stipulations for
this and the remaining studies, participants pro-
vided consent, were debriefed, and could also
decline responding to any measure. A total of
162 White Danish participants (Mage = 29.45,
SDage = 14.72, age range: 18–70; 50.6% female)
were recruited through snowball sampling on
Facebook and university mailing lists by, with
the permission of group administrators, individ-
ually inviting each person to participate in the
study and posting the survey on Facebook walls
twice a week. A wide range of groups that dis-
cussed politics, immigration, and religion as well
as those that focused on the university or dis-
cussed art, film, music, and culture were targeted.
Based on previous studies among autochtho-
nous Danes testing a similar model (see Obaidi,
Kunst, et al., 2018), we aimed to recruit 150 par-
ticipants to have enough power to test the medi-
ation model proposed in the current study. All
participation was voluntary, and participants
received a gift card of 30 DKK (US$5) to use on
an online fast-food chain for their participation.
Of the total sample, 27.2% were enrolled in uni-
versity studies, 19.1% had a bachelor’s degree,
19.1% had a postgraduate degree, 16.1% had
completed high school, and 0.6% were enrolled
in high school. Moreover, 50% identified as
being middle class, 21% as being upper middle
class, 9.9% as being working class, and 1.2% as
being upper class.1
Measures. For this and all remaining studies, an
overview of the measures and their full items can
be found in the supplemental online material
(SOM). The survey was administered in the local
languages (i.e., Danish in Denmark and Norwegian
in Norway). All items were translated into Danish
and Norwegian by the first and second authors and,
to directly assess the accuracy of the translation, all
items subsequently were back-translated into Eng-
lish by two research assistants. Unless otherwise
stated, all items were rated on 7-point Likert scales
(1 = totally disagree, 7 = totally agree).
Obaidi et al. 7
Perceived replacement. Because of lack of an exist-
ing measure, we designed three items (α = .78)
based on statements made by Danish politicians,
right-wing intellectuals, and the media (e.g., “Because
of a rapidly growing population of Muslims in Den-
mark, I feel alienated in my own country”) to meas-
ure perceived replacement.
Symbolic threat. Three items (α = .95) from
Obaidi, Kunst, et al. (2018; e.g., “Danish norms
and values are being threatened by Muslims) were
used to measure symbolic threat.
Realistic threat. An additional three items
(α = .85) from Obaidi, Kunst, et al. (2018; e.g.,
“Because of the presence of Muslims, Danish
people have fewer resources) were also used to
measure realistic threat.
Violent behavioral intentions. Violent behavio-
ral intentions were measured using seven items
(e.g., “I will personally use violence against peo-
ple harming other Danes that I care about”;
α = .80) adapted from Obaidi and colleagues
(Obaidi, Kunst, et al., 2018; Obaidi, Thomsen,
& Bergh, 2018).
Islamophobia. The eight-item Behavioral-
Affective Subscale of the Islamophobia Scale
(Lee et al., 2009) was used to measure partici-
pants’ hostility toward Muslims (α = .94). Spe-
cifically, on 10-point Likert scales (1 = totally
disagree, 10 = totally agree), participants were asked
to indicate their agreement with statements such
as, “Just to be safe, it is important to stay away
from places where Muslims could be.”
Muslim persecution. Muslim persecution was
measured with six items adapted from Altemeyer’s
(1996) POSSE measure (see also Obaidi, Thom-
sen, & Bergh, 2018). Participants were asked to
“imagine that someday in the future the Danish
government decides to outlaw Muslim organiza-
tions and requests all citizens to do their best to
make sure that the law has a successful effect,” and
then to indicate how much they agreed with items
about Muslim persecution (e.g., “I would support
the execution of Muslim leaders”; α = .92).
Variable descriptives and correlations for Studies
1–3 can be found in Table 1.
Table 1. Descriptive statistics and variable intercorrelations: Studies 1–3.
Variables M SD 2. 3. 4. 5 6
Study 1
1. Perceived replacement 1.69 1.20 .59** .72** .32** .81** .59**
2. Perceived realistic threat 2.37 1.43 .67** .14 .58** .51**
3. Perceived symbolic threat 2.14 1.65 - .30** .71** .58**
4. Violent behavioral intentions 2.26 1.21 - .22* .29**
5. Islamophobia 1.40 0.96 - .77**
6. Muslim persecution 1.36 0.89 -
Study 2
1. Perceived replacement 2.02 1.33 .49** .65** .68** .61** .72**
2. Perceived realistic threat 1.96 1.14 - .68** .41** .48** .51**
3. Perceived symbolic threat 2.58 1.71 - .66** .67** .75**
4. Violent behavioral intentions 2.03 1.65 - .65** .75**
5. Islamophobia 1.58 1.12 - .65**
6. Muslim persecution 1.81 1.45 -
Study 3
1. Perceived realistic threat 2.88 1.49 - .78** .79**
2. Perceived symbolic threat 2.54 1.35 - .69**
3. Islamophobia 3.47 3.01 -
Note. *p < .05. **p < .01.
8 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
Perceived replacement of the autochthonous
population was positively correlated with willing-
ness to violently persecute Muslims, violent
intentions, Islamophobia, as well as symbolic and
realistic threat perceptions (see Table 1).
Moreover, both types of threats were related to
Muslim persecution and Islamophobia. However,
only symbolic threat was associated with violent
Next, we examined a path model in which
symbolic and realistic threats mediated the link
between perceived replacement of the autoch-
thonous population and Muslim persecution, vio-
lent intentions, and Islamophobia. In this and all
remaining studies, the model was estimated using
robust maximum likelihood (MLR) in Mplus
Version 7 (Muthén & Muthén, 2012) in order to
account for skewed variables. Full information
maximum likelihood (FIML) was used to handle
missing data (< 3%). In this (fully saturated)
mediation model, perceived replacement pre-
dicted both symbolic and realistic threats and, of
these, symbolic threat predicted all three depend-
ent variables while we did not find a significant
relation between realistic threat and any of the
dependent variables. Further, perceived replace-
ment predicted all the key variables except violent
behavioral intentions (see Figure 1), suggesting
full and partial mediation.
Based on bootstrapping with 5,000 random resa-
mples, perceived replacement had an indirect and
positive effect on violent intentions (β = .27, 95%
CI [0.05, 0.68]), Islamophobia (β = .17, 95% CI
[0.05, 0.43]), and Muslim persecution (β = .22, 95%
CI [0.04, 0.57]), as mediated by symbolic threat.
Indirect effects associating perceived replacement
and our dependent variables through realistic threat
did not yield significance (violent intentions: β =
−.07, 95% CI [−0.35, 0.11]; Islamophobia: β = .04,
95% CI [−0.10, 0.22]; Muslim persecution: β = .06,
95% CI [−0.10, 0.31]).
Next, we constrained the paths from symbolic
and realistic threats separately to each dependent
variable to test whether the differences between
these paths were statistically significant. When
the paths from symbolic and realistic threats to
violent intentions were constrained to equality,
this produced a significant deterioration in model
fit: chi-square difference: Δχ2(1) = 4.36, p =
.031, suggesting a statistically significant
Figure 1. Path model: Study 1.
.32* (.59***)
.18 (.37**)
.60*** (.81***)
.47*** -.08
Note. Standardized coefficients are displayed. Nonsignificant paths are displayed in grey.
For each dependent variable, the direct effect from the unmediated model is presented in parentheses.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Obaidi et al. 9
difference between both paths. However, we did
not find any significant difference between realis-
tic and symbolic threats to Muslim persecution:
chi-square difference: Δχ2(1) = 0.72, p = .396,
and Islamophobia: chi-square difference: Δχ2(5)
= 0.99, p = .319.
We also tested whether these relations were
robust to the introduction of demographic varia-
bles of age, gender, education, and socioeconomic
status. With the exception of the paths from sym-
bolic threat to violent intention (β = .24, p = .080),
and perceived replacement to Muslim persecution
(β = .22, p = .075), which turned marginally sig-
nificant, the remaining paths remained just as
strong in this analysis (βs .26, ps .024).
Preliminary Discussion
Study 1 showed that perceived replacement was
associated with both general (e.g., Islamophobia)
and extreme negative anti-Muslim resentment
(e.g., Muslim persecution). Moreover, this rela-
tionship was mediated by symbolic threat percep-
tions. However, a central limitation of this study
is that our independent variable could be per-
ceived as a proxy variable. More specifically,
rather than using a direct measure of perceived
replacement, we measured the feeling of becom-
ing alienated due to increased Muslim migration.
Study 2 remedies this limitation by directly assess-
ing the perception that one’s group is being
replaced or becoming extinct.
Study 2
We had several aims with Study 2. First, to test the
robustness of our results, we wanted to replicate
those from Study 1 with another sample of White
Danes. Second, we aimed to address the measure-
ment limitation of the previous study by employ-
ing a more extensive and direct measure of
perceived replacement of one’s group by an out-
group using the words “replaced” and “extinct.”
Participants and procedure. As in Study 1, we aimed
to recruit at least 150 White Danish participants
to have enough power to test the proposed medi-
ation model. A total of 218 White Danish partici-
pants (Mage = 28.49, SDage = 8.64, age range:
18–55; 51.1% female) were recruited in the same
manner as in Study 1, yet only Facebook was
used. Of the total sample, 44.6% were enrolled in
university studies, 20.3% had completed high
school, 17.8% had a bachelor’s degree, 9.9% had
a postgraduate degree, and 7.4% had completed
upper secondary school. Moreover, 52% identi-
fied as being middle class, 20.5% as being upper
middle class, 17.5% as being working class, and
10% as being upper class.
Measures. Differently from the previous study, we
used four items to measure the perceived replace-
ment of White Danes by Muslims (e.g., “The
population replacement in Denmark will make
Muslims a majority in the near future”; α = .81).
Moreover, these new items were created based on
statements expressed by the proponents of the
“Great Replacement” conspiracy such as GI, and
specifically included the words “replaced” or
“extinct.” Next, using the same measures as in
Study 1, we assessed symbolic threat (α = .94),
realistic threat (α = .86), violent behavioral inten-
tions (α = .95), Islamophobia (α = .93), and
Muslim persecution (α =. 95).
Variable descriptives and correlations can be
found in Table 1. Perceived replacement was pos-
itively correlated with violent behavioral inten-
tions, Muslim persecution, Islamophobia, and the
two types of threat perceptions (see Table 1).
Moreover, symbolic threat, but not realistic
threat, was positively associated with the three
dependent variables.
As in Study 1, symbolic but not realistic threat
mediated all associations between perceived
replacement of the autochthonous population
and the dependent variables (see Figure 2). Based
on bootstrapping with 5,000 random resamples,
perceived replacement had significant indirect
and positive effects on violent intentions (β =
.31, 95% CI [0.28, 0.62]), Islamophobia (β = .36,
95% CI [0.34, 0.71]), and Muslim persecution
10 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
(β = .43, 95% CI [0.46, 0.78]), which were medi-
ated by symbolic threat. No mediation by realistic
threat was observed (indirect effects on violent
intentions: β = −.05, 95% CI [−0.21, 0.04];
Muslim persecution: β = .01, 95% CI [−0.12,
0.11]; and Islamophobia: β = .03, 95% CI [−0.07,
Next, as in Study 1, we constrained the paths
from symbolic and realistic threats to each
dependent variable to equality, to test whether
the difference between these paths was statisti-
cally significant. When the paths from symbolic
and realistic threats to violent intentions: chi-
square difference: Δχ2(1) = 13.31, p = .001;
Islamophobia: chi-square difference: Δχ2(1) =
7.31, p = .001; and Muslim persecution: chi-
square difference: Δχ2(1) = 14.82, p = .001,
were constrained, this produced a significant
decrease in model fit, suggesting a difference
between the paths.
As in Study 1, we also tested whether the rela-
tions were robust to the introduction of demo-
graphic variables of age, gender, education, and
socioeconomic status. All paths that were signifi-
cant without these control variables remained as
strong in this analysis (βs .20, ps .019).
Preliminary Discussion
As in Study 1, this second study demonstrated
that perceived replacement was associated with
anti-Muslim resentment (e.g., Muslim persecu-
tion, violent intentions, and Islamophobia).
Again, this relationship was mediated by sym-
bolic threat perceptions. Although Studies 1 and
2 supported the predicted relationships between
perceived replacement and outgroup hostility, a
central limitation of the first two studies is the
cross-sectional data structure. Thus, the final
study uses an experimental design to address this
and, thus, assess causality.
Study 3
Although providing consistent results, the first
two studies were limited as they employed corre-
lational designs. Therefore, we aimed to conduct
an experimental study, this time in Norway.
Importantly, to replicate our findings, we ran-
domly assigned participants to either a replace-
ment or a control condition. Next, we assessed
participants’ symbolic and realistic threat percep-
tions and, to keep the survey brief, their degree
of Islamophobia specifically. We hypothesized
Figure 2. Path model: Study 2.
.25** (.67***)
.20* (.59***)
.48*** -.27**
Note. Standardized coefficients are displayed. Nonsignificant paths are displayed in grey.
For each dependent variable, the direct effect from the unmediated model is presented in parentheses.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Obaidi et al. 11
that participants who were assigned to the
replacement condition would perceive more sym-
bolic threat and subsequently would show more
Islamophobia than those in the control
Participants. A total of 96 White autochthonous
Norwegians (Mage = 28.6 years, SDage = 6.5, age
range: 18–70; 79.2% male) were recruited through
postings on online social networks (e.g., Face-
book groups unrelated to the topic) for a study
on “social issues.” A power analysis indicated
that this sample size provided 80% power to
detect a medium-sized effect (d = 0.5) at a .05
significance criterion. About half of the partici-
pants (44.8%) indicated that secondary school
was their highest level of education, followed by
those with a bachelor’s degree (39.6%), and those
with a master’s degree (15.6%).
Procedure. Data were collected online, and partici-
pants were randomly assigned to one of two con-
ditions via Qualtrics software. In the replacement
condition, participants watched a short, edited
video clip from a major Norwegian TV channel.
In the video, new statistical reports were cited
suggesting that ethnic Norwegians may become a
minority in Norway within 50 years (and within 20
years in the capital city of Oslo specifically) due to
immigration. While citing these reports, images
were shown of Norwegian kindergartens com-
prising mostly children from Muslim-majority
countries. In the control condition, participants
watched an unrelated video from the same TV
station that was matched in length and dealt with
the importance of using eyeglasses while driving.
Measures and materials. After watching the video,
participants first completed the symbolic and real-
istic threat measures in randomized order, and
then completed a measure of Islamophobia.2
Symbolic threat. The symbolic and realis-
tic threat measures were based on statements
made by Norwegian politicians, right-wing
intellectuals, and the media. Participants were
asked to indicate the degree to which they felt
that different aspects of the Norwegian culture
were threatened by immigration (α = .97). These
aspects were Norwegian (a) cultural habits, (b) val-
ues and norms, (c) cultural traditions, and (d) cul-
ture in general. Responses were rated on 5-point
Likert scales (1 = not at all threatened, 5 = threatened
to a high degree).
Realistic threat. Four items assessed realistic
threat (α = .94) using the same prompt as for the
symbolic threat measure described before. How-
ever, here, participants rated the degree to which
they felt that the Norwegian (a) labor market, (b)
welfare system, (c) economic wealth of Norwe-
gian citizens, and (d) the Norwegian economy in
general were threatened by immigration.
Islamophobia. To measure Islamophobia, we
used the same items as in Studies 1 and 2 (α =
.94), scored on an 11-point scale (0 = totally disa-
gree, 10 = totally agree).
Manipulation check. Participants were asked to
indicate to which extent they felt that the contin-
ued existence of the Norwegian ethnic group was
threatened, using four items (α = .99; e.g., “To
which extent do to you think the very existence
of the Norwegian ethnic group is threatened by
immigration?”). The response format was the
same as for the threat measures.
The manipulation check supported the effective-
ness of our condition. Participants in the replace-
ment condition scored higher on the manipulation
check (M = 3.17, SD = 1.45) than participants in
the control condition (M = 2.44, SD = 1.55),
t(94) = −2.37, p = .020, d = 0.48.
Next, the experimental manipulation affected
both symbolic and realistic threat perceptions as
well as Islamophobia: participants assigned to the
replacement condition perceived higher degrees
of symbolic (M = 3.21, SD = 1.49) and realistic
threat (M = 2.88, SD = 1.40) than those assigned
12 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
to the control condition: symbolic threat (M = 2.56,
SD = 1.43), t(94) = −2.20, p = .030, d = 0.45;
realistic threat (M = 2.22, SD = 1.22), t(94) =
−2.46, p = .016, d = 0.50 (see also Figure 3).
Moreover, participants in the replacement condi-
tion expressed more Islamophobia (M = 4.11, SD
= 3.03) than those in the control group (M = 2.84,
SD = 2.89), t(94) = −2.09, p = .039, d = 0.43.
Having established these effects, we estimated
a path model to test whether symbolic and realis-
tic threats mediated the effects of the numerical
threat condition (0 = control, 1 = replacement)
on Islamophobia. In this (fully saturated) model,
experimental threat predicted both symbolic and
realistic threat; of these, only symbolic threat pre-
dicted Islamophobia, as expected (see Figure 4).
When the paths from symbolic and realistic
threat to Islamophobia were constrained to
equality, this produced a significant decrease in
model fit, suggesting a difference between both
paths: chi-square difference: Δχ2(1) = 4.80, p =
.029. Analogously, analyses using bootstrapping
with 5,000 random resamples indicated that,
whereas there was a significant indirect effect of
experimental condition on Islamophobia through
symbolic threat (β = .14, 95% CI [0.02, 0.30]), the
Figure 3. Mean differences observed: Study 3.
Note. *p < .05.
Obaidi et al. 13
indirect effect of condition on Islamophobia
through realistic threat was nonsignificant (β =
.05, 95% CI [−0.01, 0.16]).
Finally, we also tested whether these relations
were robust to the introduction of demographic
variables of age, gender, and education. With the
exception of the path from symbolic threat to
Islamophobia, which became stronger (β = .70, p
= .001), the remaining paths remained just as
strong in this analysis (βs .24, ps .016).
Preliminary Discussion
Study 3 aligned with the previous studies by pro-
viding causal support for the hypothesis that the
perception of replacement may fuel Islamophobia
among the White majority population and that
this effect is mediated by higher perceptions of
symbolic threat, but not realistic threat.
It has been suggested that immigration-related
conspiracy theories trafficked by right-wing
groups may nurture hate and violence against
immigrants and asylum seekers in the West.
Moreover, recent FBI documents predict that
right-wing, conspiracy-driven extremism will
increase in the next few years (Steinbuch, 2019).
Indeed, new reports indicate that far-right terror-
ism has significantly outpaced other forms of ter-
rorism (Jones et al., 2020). More specifically,
right-wing terrorist incidents in the West have
increased by 320% over the past 5 years (Institute
for Economics & Peace, 2019). One of the most
potent conspiracy theories evoked by right-wing
extremists, politicians, and commentators is the
“Great Replacement”—the conspiracy arguing
that there is an attempt to replace the White
autochthonous population with non-Western
immigrants. Yet, to our knowledge, the present
paper is the first to investigate the impact of per-
ceiving that one’s ethnic group may be replaced
by non-Western immigrants on negative out-
group sentiment (e.g., Muslim persecution, vio-
lent intentions, and Islamophobia). Importantly,
the perception of being replaced is distinct from
perceptions of outgroup size in that it refers to
the extinction of one’s group, whereas outgroup
Figure 4. Path model: Study 4.
Note. Coefficients are standardized. Nonsignificant paths are displayed in grey. The direct effect from the unmediated model is
presented in parentheses.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
14 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
size is mainly related to a zero-sum game that the
majority is losing. Here, in three studies (i.e., two
correlational and one experimental), we tested
the impact of this conspiracy while also examin-
ing the underlying role of symbolic and realistic
threat perceptions.
Supporting our predictions, in the first two
correlational studies, the perceived replacement
of one’s group was strongly associated with more
intergroup hostility. In both studies, these effects
were mediated by higher perceptions of symbolic
threat, but not a realistic threat. In the third study,
we obtained experimental support for the
assumed causality between the constructs, as we
manipulated the independent variable and tested
effects on mediators and dependent variables.
That is, experimentally altering the perceived
replacement of one’s population led to higher
levels of Islamophobia compared to a plain con-
trol condition.
The effects of a perceived replacement were
only mediated by symbolic threat. This is in line
with recent studies (e.g., Obaidi, Kunst, et al.,
2018) investigating the relationship between iden-
tification, threat perception, and outgroup hostil-
ity, in which symbolic threat emerged as the main
predictor of hostility. One explanation for this
could be rooted in the kind of rhetoric used by
right-wing intellectuals, media, and politicians
cultivating a “clash of civilizations” discourse
that portrays Muslims and Islam as an imminent
threat to the core values of Christian Western
civilization (e.g., Fallaci, 2002; Huntington, 1993;
Murray, 2017). Thus, the proponents of the
“Great Replacement” conspiracy first and fore-
most see non-Western immigrants, particularly
Muslims, as a threat to White European culture
and Judeo-Christian civilization rather than a
threat to Europeans’ economic conditions. For
example, the leading proponents of the replace-
ment conspiracy who are part of GI lobby for an
ethnically and religiously homogeneous Europe.
To achieve this, they campaign for an indiscrimi-
nate expulsion of all non-Westerners who do not
have a Judeo-Christian ethnic heritage. This
ethno-nationalist view and the need to protect
the “White race” were recurring and dominant
elements of recent White supremacists’ justifica-
tion for carrying out their racially motivated vio-
lent attacks. For example, the El Paso shooter
openly embraced the ethno-nationalist view and
saw the alleged replacement of the White popula-
tion as an attempt to remove White culture.
Therefore, such narratives depicting Muslims as
an existential threat to the Western way of life,
national identity, and culture (e.g., Wilders, 2017)
may result in an increased perception of cultural
threat, incompatibility, and clash of values, lead-
ing to more symbolic threat perceptions among
the majority population.
As for our dependent variables, we not only
focused on general negative attitudes towards
outgroups (e.g., Islamophobia), but also meas-
ured more extreme types of outgroup hostility
such as violent behavioral intentions and willing-
ness to violently persecute Muslim minority
members. Based on previous studies (e.g., Tausch
et al., 2011), one may have expected that the pre-
dictive power of perceived replacement would
become weaker the more extreme the dependent
variables become. However, our data did not sup-
port this proposition, and results replicated
across two studies provided confirmation of the
robustness of our model and illustrated the nega-
tive implication and the potential that the “Great
Replacement” conspiracy has for radicalizing
some people.
Limitations and Future Directions
One of the main limitations of the present
research was the use of nonrepresentative sam-
ples, reducing our findings’ generalizability and
inferences that can be made about the entire pop-
ulation. However, we believe that the fact that we
observed the same pattern of results across three
studies and two different cultural contexts (e.g.,
Norway and Denmark) attenuates such a concern
to some extent. Nevertheless, future studies are
needed to replicate our findings outside the
Scandinavian context and among representative
Another concern refers to the mediation mod-
els tested in our studies. In Studies 1 and 2, model
Obaidi et al. 15
estimation was based solely on correlational data
and directionality was assumed based on previous
work. Such models have only limited evidentiary
value as they preclude inferences of causality
(Bullock et al., 2010; MacKinnon et al., 2007). To
alleviate this limitation, in Study 3, we replicated
the model by manipulating the independent vari-
able. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the
relationship between the mediators (i.e., symbolic
and realistic threats) and the dependent variable
still was correlational. Hence, future studies
should attempt to manipulate both the independ-
ent and mediating variables to establish the full
causal chain.
It is also important to note that we did not
directly assess actual violence, which is practically
and ethically very difficult in social sciences
research. Instead, we measured violent intentions
and hostile intergroup attitudes. Although we
found consistent relationships between our inde-
pendent and mediator variables and these out-
comes, to what extent the measured intentions
and attitudes translate into actual violent behavior
remains uncertain.
Although the effects of perceived replace-
ment in this study were only mediated by sym-
bolic threat, other studies show that Whites’
experience of both aversive economic conditions
(i.e., realistic threat) and increased exposure to
non-White minorities are associated with feelings
of intergroup threat (e.g., Knowles & Tropp,
2018). Particularly, previous studies have shown
that increased ethno-racial diversity leads to a
high degree of realistic threat under conditions in
which economic resources are scarce (Quillian,
1995). Thus, the extent to which either a symbolic
or realistic threat leads to outgroup hostility is
influenced by the socioeconomic factors of a
given context (McDermott et al., 2019; Nijs et al.,
Furthermore, what kind of threat is the most
potent predictor of outgroup hostility and preju-
dice depends on the group in question, as differ-
ent outgroups are perceived to pose different
types of threats (e.g., Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005).
For instance, African Americans are generally
perceived to pose realistic threats to Whites (e.g.,
Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005). In contrast, atheists
and religious minorities (e.g., Muslims) are com-
monly perceived to pose symbolic threats
(Gervais et al., 2011; Raiya et al., 2008). Identifying
which specific groups and circumstances lead to
distinct types of threats has implications for con-
flict and prejudice reduction, as the interventions
employed to reduce intergroup conflict should be
developed to target the specific type of threat
Finally, future studies should focus on individ-
ual-level variables as moderators of the relation-
ship between perceived threat and radicalization.
For example, individuals who have a predisposi-
tion to react negatively to uncertainty (Choi &
Hogg, 2020) may perceive a higher degree of
threat when confronted with information indicat-
ing that their group or culture is being replaced.
Indeed, uncertainty experienced as a threat has
been linked with protective behaviors (i.e., retreat
into identity-focused echo chambers often
revolving around populist ideology and conspir-
acy theories; Hogg, 2020).
Societal Implications
As the writer Rosa Schwartzburg puts it “the
‘Great Replacement’ is spreading like a virus”
and seeping into mainstream, conservative, right-
wing political discourse (Schwartzburg, 2019).
For instance, the idea of being “replaced” by
immigrants is a recurring feature on some Fox
News programs (e.g., hosts such as Tucker
Carlson and Laura Ingraham). Indeed, a The New
York Times review of popular right-wing media
platforms found a striking degree of overlap
between the language used by the El Paso
shooter and the incendiary language of right-
wing media personalities that echo the fear of
invasion and replacement (Peters et al., 2019). As
our results show, such incendiary language por-
traying Westerners under invasion by immigrants
has far-reaching implications for violent extrem-
ism. For instance, recent analyses identified fear
of “the Great Replacement” as the root cause of
the Capitol attack; these analyses concluded that
the second biggest driver for the attack was the
16 Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 00(0)
significant traction that such conspiracy theories
have on social media (Pape, 2021).
In addition to its potential to lead to violent
extremism, such incendiary rhetoric adopting
themes of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy
may legitimatize violence. Specifically, because it
portrays the majority population as victims whose
ethnicity is under existential threat, it may help to
justify violence as a necessary mean to avert such
threats (Bandura, 1999; Kruglanski et al., 2014).
This is clearly visible in El Paso shooter’s mani-
festo claiming that he was “simply defending my
country from cultural and ethnic replacement
brought on by an invasion” (Baker & Shear, 2019).
Finally, such apocalyptic discourse of “White
genocide” and invasion of Europe by non-West-
ern immigrants has far-reaching policy implica-
tions. When faulty or distorted beliefs about
immigrants replacing the majority population are
taken as fact, they become the basis for generat-
ing hostile public opinion towards immigrants.
This may result in threat perception and fear of
immigrants, which in turn can result in discrimi-
natory public policies and actions leading to
greater polarization and intergroup conflict.
Author’s note
Milan Obaidi is also affiliated with Center for research
on extremism (C-REX), University of Oslo, Norway.
Data availability
The data that support the findings of this paper are
available from the corresponding author upon reason-
able request.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following finan-
cial support for the research, authorship, and/or publi-
cation of this article: The research was supported by
grant from the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship to
Milan Obaidi.
Milan Obaidi
Simon Ozer
Supplemental material
Supplemental material for this article is available online.
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We locate our review of recent social scientific literature on non-western migrants in western liberal democracies within two opposing master narratives: a subtractive and an additive view of migration. Within this framework, we bring to light the contemporary conceptualizations of non-western migrants in psychology by focusing on trauma. We then examine the cultural and moral clashes that sometimes arise from trans-global migration and the psychology of integration. We end by highlighting the importance of further research on cultural pluralism and omniculturalism to help foster more peaceful and diverse societies.
A significant trend of research construes conspiracy theories as a power challenging phenomenon. Yet, there is evidence that conspiracy theories are sometimes promoted by members of relatively powerful groups (e.g., a national majority) in order to target relatively powerless groups (e.g., immigrants). Thus, conspiracy theories are not necessarily beliefs held by the relatively powerless. On the contrary, they always attribute power to the allegedly conspiring parties. As a matter of fact, without such power, the groups accused of conspiring would be unable to carry out their plans. In contrast to assuming conspiracy theories reflect objective power imbalances, we propose that they may be construed as opportunistic attributions of power that allow individuals to advance their interests (e.g., validate their worldview, strengthen or challenge social hierarchies).
Full-text available
Collective ownership threat is the fear of losing control over what is perceived to be owned. In two experimental studies, we examined the intergroup consequences of collective ownership threat in relation to perceived owned territories. First, among a sample of Dutch adolescents ( N = 227), we found that infringement of a hangout place owned by a group of friends led to more perceived collective ownership threat (and not symbolic threat), which was in turn related to more marking and anticipatory defending behavior. Second, among a sample of native Dutch adults ( N = 338), we found that framing Turkish EU accession as an infringement of the collective ownership of the country led to more perceived collective ownership threat (and not symbolic and economic threat), which was in turn related to more opposition to Turkey’s possible accession. Our findings indicate that collective ownership threat is an important construct to consider in intergroup research.
Full-text available
Uncertainty, perceived threats, and a generally insecure life attachment have been associated with endorsement of extremism. Furthermore, salient identification with a group can influence radicalized ways of addressing insecure life attachment through an established and sometimes extreme worldview and ideology. In the present study, we replicated the finding that an insecure life attachment is associated with a higher degree of extremism endorsement. Furthermore, we found similarities and differences in how this association was influenced by various aspects of group membership across dissimilar contexts and among majority and minority groups (e.g., Muslims and non-Muslims) from Denmark (n = 223), India (n = 147), and the United Kingdom (n = 225). Consequently, our results indicate that general social psychological processes underlie radicalization and that different aspects of collective self-esteem can be central promoting or mitigating factors. Overall, our findings suggest an important interplay among life attachment, collective self-esteem, and extremism across Western and non-Western majority and minority groups.
Full-text available
Uncertainty, perceived threats, and a generally insecure life attachment have been associated with endorsement of extremism. Furthermore, salient identification with a group can influence radicalized ways of addressing insecure life attachment through an established and sometimes extreme worldview and ideology. In the present study, we replicated the finding that an insecure life attachment is associated with a higher degree of extremism endorsement. Furthermore, we found similarities and differences in how this association was influenced by various aspects of group membership across dissimilar contexts and among majority and minority groups (e.g., Muslims and non-Muslims) from Denmark (n = 223), India (n = 147), and the United Kingdom (n = 225). Consequently, our results indicate that general social psychological processes underlie radicalization and that different aspects of collective self-esteem can be central promoting or mitigating factors. Overall, our findings suggest an important interplay among life attachment, collective self-esteem, and extremism across Western and non-Western majority and minority groups.
Full-text available
Response and Rejoinders to Symposium on Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies - Claire L. Adida, David D. Laitin, Marie-Anne Valfort
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Far-right political parties in Europe regularly portray Muslims and Islam as backward and a symbolic threat to secular and/or Christian European culture. Similarly, Islamist groups regularly portray Westerners and Western culture as decadent and a symbolic threat to Islam. Here, we present experimental evidence that meta-cultural threat-information that members of an out-group perceive one's own culture as a symbolic threat to their culture-increases intention and endorsement of political violence against that outgroup. We tested this in three experimental studies among Muslims and non-Muslims in Scandinavia. In Studies 1 and 2, we experimentally manipulated whether the dominant majority group was portrayed as seeing Muslim culture and lifestyle as backward and incompatible with their own culture. These portrayals increased the endorsement of extremist violence against the West and violent behavioural intentions among Muslims living in Denmark and Sweden. Study 3 used a similar paradigm among non-Muslim Danes and demonstrated that learning about Muslims portraying the non-Muslim Danish in-group as a threat increased endorsement of ethnic persecution of Muslims, conceptually replicating the general effect that meta-cultural threat fuels endorsement of extremist violence among both majority and minority groups.
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The present research examines the social cognitive processes underlying ideologically-based violence through the lens of the 3N model of radicalization. To test this theory, we introduce two new psychometric instruments-a social alienation and a support for political violence scale-developed in collaboration with 13 subject matter experts on terrorism. Using these instruments, we test the theory's hypotheses in four different cultural settings. In Study 1, Canadians reporting high levels of social alienation (Need) expressed greater support for political violence (Narrative), which in turn positively predicted wanting to join a radical group (Network), controlling for other measures related to political violence. Study 2a and 2b replicated these findings in Pakistan and in Spain, respectively. Using an experimental manipulation of social alienation, Study 3 extended these findings with an American sample and demonstrated that moral justification is one of the psychological mechanisms linking social alienation to supporting political violence. Implications and future directions for the psychology of terrorism are discussed.
We live in a changing world that can create uncertainty about who we are, and make extremist groups, identities and ideologies attractive to us. This article invokes uncertainty-identity theory to explore the role played by context-induced self-uncertainty in radicalization, violent extremism, and support for populist ideologies and autocratic leadership. Uncertainty-identity theory argues that people are motivated to reduce self and identity uncertainty, and that group identification satisfies this motivation. However, some groups and identities are more effective than others. Specifically, highly entitative groups with clearly defined prescriptive identities that are unambiguous and consensual – identities that echo populist ideology, conspiracy theories and victimhood narratives. Self-uncertainty creates a need for leadership, in particular leaders who are populist, autocratic and toxic. I introduce uncertainty-identity theory to focus on its account of “extremism” – overviewing empirical support, and closing with discussion of warning signs of radicalization and speculations about preventative strategies.
In this article, I examine the relationship between migration and terrorism in Western European countries from 1980 to 2004. I find that an increase in migration is positively related to an increase in terrorism, but only right-wing terrorism. Immigration has no effect on left-wing terrorism or other non-right-wing terrorism. I also examine the effect of incoming refugees on terrorism and find similar results. I argue that these population flows increase terrorism in part because they aggravate the grievances of those on the radical right. To provide empirical support for this mechanism, I conduct a subnational analysis of right-wing terrorism in Germany. For German states, the percentage of foreign-born immigrants is a bigger predictor of anti-immigrant violence than economic variables such as employment or trade levels. The flow of immigrants from outside of Europe is also positively related with right-wing terror, while no relationship exists for intra-European migration. This analysis serves to qualify the study of terrorism as a strategic choice by showing that increased antipathy toward an out-group, rather than a changing strategic environment, explains variation in levels of terrorism, at least among liberal democracies.
As neighborhoods that were predominantly White become more racially and ethnically diverse, many Whites in those communities respond with feelings of threat and political shifts to the right. Trump's election in 2016 has often been attributed, at least in part, to such responses among members of the White working class. Building on this work, in the summer of 2017 (and thus after the election) we interviewed 77 working‐class White residents of three majority‐White cities from the Midwestern United States that had recently become more diverse due to an influx of Latino immigrants and/or an increase in native‐born racial minorities. Respondents were asked about their class identity, perceptions of change in their communities, and their attitudes about immigration and racial minorities. Contrary to prevailing narratives regarding the White working class, we found considerable variation in respondents’ reactions to these demographic changes. Notably, these differential reactions are organized by, and potentially rooted in, variation in class identity. Despite all being members of the working class, our respondents conceptualized their class identity according to three types—Class Conflict Aware, Working‐class Connected, and Working‐class Patriots—that were associated with more favorable or more antagonistic attitudes toward Latino immigrants and domestic racial minorities. This work, therefore, offers a more nuanced picture of how members of the White working class are responding to ethnoracial demographic changes in the nation.
A key prediction of uncertainty-identity theory is that under conditions of high self-uncertainty, people will identify more strongly with their group. This has been supported by numerous studies. To quantify this relationship, a meta-analysis was conducted on 35 studies from 30 papers (N = 4,657). The relationship between self-uncertainty and group identification varied significantly as a function of how psychologically real the uncertainty was, as reflected in how uncertainty was operationalized and how the study was conducted. Self-uncertainty operationalized as social identity uncertainty had the strongest relationship with identification (r = −.26, 6.8% variance accounted for), followed by indirect operationalization of self-uncertainty (r = .23, 5.3% variance accounted for), and direct operationalization of self-uncertainty (r = .14, 2.0% variance accounted for). The relationship did not differ between measured self-uncertainty (r = −.13, 1.7% variance accounted for) and manipulated self-uncertainty (r = .17, 2.9% variance accounted for). Implications and future directions are discussed.