Violation of Sacredness and Violence
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This dissertation aims to present a model of sacredness – MAPR – that emphasizes four components to empirically study sacredness: source of meaning (M), experience of awe (A), protection against the profane (P), and relationship to religion (R). The empirical studies focus on the psychological mechanisms of protecting, and examine the association of violence and violation of sacredness. Five studies examined the hypothesized effect of violating sacredness on moral judgment and support for war. Hypothetical and semi-real scenarios were created in which a sacred site (versus a military site) is attacked and participants report the degree to which they support war as counterattack. Results showed no effects of sacredness in eliciting violence (Study 1). The proposed effect did not show either with fine-tuned aspects of sacredness: religious sacredness and ethnonational sacredness (Study 2), or under feeling prime (Study 3). This effect did not show with an Iranian sample either (Study 4). To address possible methodological challenges, we checked the manipulation scenarios by changing the non-sacred condition into a manufacture plant (previously a military site). The null results remained unchallenged (Study 5a). We also examined individuals’ attitudes toward attacking the sacred site in Study 2, and counterattacking for the sacred site in Study 3. In addition, some personality variables were included to index the characteristics of individuals who support protecting the sacredness. No clear pattern was observed. The results suggest the possibility that the connection of sacredness and violence may be a misconception. The null finding has significant implications in today’s tumultuous world, where dialogue is needed between different faith communities, and terrorism can and should be distinguished from religious commitment.