Religion, group threat and sacred values

Hammad Sheikh, Jeremy Ginges, Alin Coman, Scott Atran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-118
Number of pages9
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Group threat
  • Palestinians
  • Protected values
  • Religiosity
  • Ritual
  • Sacred values


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