People Eager to Die and Kill for Their Group
Texas People with extremely strong ties to their countries
or groups are not only willing, but eager, to sacrifice themselves
to save their compatriots, according to psychology research from The
University of Texas at Austin.
study that appeared in the August 2010 issue of Psychological
Science, Bill Swann, professor of psychology, and a team of
researchers found the majority of "fused" people, those
who view themselves as completely immersed in a group (be it ethnic,
national or other), are willing to commit extreme acts for the good
of their compatriots.
group members believe that through suicide, their lives will achieve
tremendous significance," Swann said. "Their strong sense
of moral agency drives them to see not only that justice is done,
but to also take an active role in its implementation."
researchers who co-authored the study included Sonia Hart of The University
of Texas at Austin, Angel Gomez of Universidad Nacional de Educacion
a Distancia in Spain, John F. Dovidio of Yale University and Jolanda
Jetten of the University of Queensland.
study, the researchers recruited 506 college students at the Universidad
Nacional de Educacion a Distancia in Spain. Based on the students'
answers in online questionnaires, the researchers identified 38 percent
of the participants as "fused" as compared to "non-fused,"
with Spain. They then measured their self-sacrificial behaviors.
the subjects' willingness to die for their group, the researchers
based their Web surveys on different variations of the "Trolley
Problem." Coined by British philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomas
in 1967, the "Trolley Problem" presents a hypothetical moral
dilemma in which a person must choose whether to kill one person to
save five strangers from a fatal trolley collision either by pushing
a man in front of the tracks or simply flipping a switch that would
automatically kill an innocent bystander. To put a new spin on the
moral dilemma, the researchers added self-sacrifice as a means of
saving a member of their group from a runaway trolley.
revealed that an overwhelming majority of fused respondents are willing
to take extreme, bold steps to save the lives of their group members.
According to the findings:
percent are willing to jump to their deaths to save the lives of five
group members, compared to 25 percent of participants who were not
fused with their country.
* 88 percent said they would die to save five members of an extended
in-group (Europe), but not members of an out-group (America). The
researchers used Europe as an example of an extended in-group (outsiders
with close cultural or moral affiliations) because of its common social,
political and economic ties to Spain. They used America as an example
of an out-group because it is far removed from Spain.
* When given the option to push aside a fellow group member who is
about to sacrifice himself to kill some escaped terrorists, 63 percent
said they would push the group member aside so they, themselves, could
leap to their deaths to divert a train that would then kill the terrorists.
said the study may offer new insights into the mindsets of groups
with extremist ideology.
an era in which the act of sacrificing one's own life for the group
has had world-altering consequences, it is critical to learn more
about the psychological underpinnings of such activity," Swann
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