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Reframing Sacred Values

Author

Listed:
  • Scott Atran

    () (IJN - Institut Jean-Nicod - DEC - Département d'Etudes Cognitives - ENS Paris - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Département de Philosophie - ENS Paris - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris)

  • Robert Axelrod

    (Dept of Political Science, Ford School Public Policy - University of Michigan [Ann Arbor])

Abstract

Sacred values differ from material or instrumental values in that they incorporate moral beliefs that drive action in ways dissociated from prospects for success. Across the world, people believe that devotion to essential or core values – such as the welfare of their family and country, or their commitment to religion, honor, and justice – are, or ought to be, absolute and inviolable. Counterintuitively, understanding an opponent's sacred values, we believe, offers surprising opportunities for breakthroughs to peace. Because of the emotional unwillingness of those in conflict situations to negotiate sacred values, conventional wisdom suggests that negotiators should either leave sacred values for last in political negotiations or try to bypass them with sufficient material incentives. Our empirical findings and historical analysis suggest that conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, offering to provide material benefits in exchange for giving up a sacred value actually makes settlement more difficult because people see the offering as an insult rather than a compromise. But we also found that making symbolic concessions of no apparent material benefit might open the way to resolving seemingly irresolvable conflicts. We offer suggestions for how negotiators can reframe their position by demonstrating respect, and/or by apologizing for what they sincerely regret. We also offer suggestions for how to overcome sacred barriers by refining sacred values to exclude outmoded claims, exploiting the inevitable ambiguity of sacred values, shifting the context, provisionally prioritizing values, and reframing responsibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Atran & Robert Axelrod, 2008. "Reframing Sacred Values," Post-Print ijn_00505185, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:ijn_00505185
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://jeannicod.ccsd.cnrs.fr/ijn_00505185
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    File URL: https://jeannicod.ccsd.cnrs.fr/ijn_00505185/document
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan Leader Maynard, 2015. "Preventing Mass Atrocities: Ideological Strategies and Interventions," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 3(3), pages 67-84.
    2. Yates, J. Frank & de Oliveira, Stephanie, 2016. "Culture and decision making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 106-118.
    3. MacDonald, Patricia A. & Murray, Grant & Patterson, Michele, 2015. "Considering social values in the seafood sector using the Q-method," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 68-76.
    4. Pearson, Leonie J. & Kashima, Yoshihisa & Pearson, Craig J., 2012. "Clarifying protected and utilitarian values of critical capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 206-210.
    5. Morteza Dehghani & Peter J. Carnevale & Jonathan Gratch, 2014. "Interpersonal effects of expressed anger and sorrow in morally charged negotiation," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 9(2), pages 104-113, March.
    6. 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.

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