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Religion, group threat and sacred values


  • Hammad Sheikh
  • Jeremy Ginges
  • Alin Coman
  • Scott Atran


Sacred or protected values have important influences on decision making, particularly in the context of intergroup disputes. Thus far, we know little about the process of a value becoming sacred or why one person may be more likely than another to hold a sacred value. We present evidence that participation in religious ritual and perceived threat to the group lead people to be more likely to consider preferences as protected or sacred values. Specifically, three studies carried out with Americans and Palestinians show: (a) that the more people participate in religious ritual the more likely they are to report a preference to be a sacred value (Studies 1--3); (b) that people claim more sacred values when they are reminded of religious ritual (Study 2); and (c) that the effect of religious ritual on the likelihood of holding a sacred value is amplified by the perception of high threat to the in-group (Study 3). We discuss implications of these findings for understanding intergroup conflicts, and suggest avenues for future research into the emergence and spread of sacred values.

Suggested Citation

  • Hammad Sheikh & Jeremy Ginges & Alin Coman & Scott Atran, 2012. "Religion, group threat and sacred values," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(2), pages 110-118, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:2:p:110-118

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Scott Atran & Joseph Henrich, 2010. "The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religio," Post-Print ijn_00505193, HAL.
    2. Paul Rozin & Sharon Wolf, 2008. "Attachment to land: The case of the land of Israel for American and Israeli Jews and the role of contagion," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 325-334, April.
    3. Scott Atran & Robert Axelrod, 2008. "Reframing Sacred Values," Post-Print ijn_00505185, HAL.
    4. Belk, Russell W & Wallendorf, Melanie & Sherry, John F, Jr, 1989. " The Sacred and the Profane in Consumer Behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 1-38, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dutta, Sunasir & Rao, Hayagreeva, 2015. "Infectious diseases, contamination rumors and ethnic violence: Regimental mutinies in the Bengal Native Army in 1857 India," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 36-47.


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