Two studies investigated the role of beliefs about the acceptability of aggression ("normative beliefs") against Jews in determining who would join an extremist group. In Study 1, students in a university in Pakistan (N5144) completed self-report attitude measures, and were subsequently approached by a confederate who asked whether they wanted to join an extremist anti-Semitic organization.
Normative beliefs about aggression against Jews were very strong predictors of whether participants agreed to join. In Study 2, participants (N592) were experimentally assigned to either a brief educational intervention, designed to improve intergroup relations, or to a control group. They also filled in self-report attitude measures pre and post intervention. Participants in the intervention group were much less likely to agree to join the extremist group, and this effect of the intervention on joining was mediated by changes in normative beliefs about aggression against Jews. The results have implications for theories of inter-group aggression and interventions to prevent people from being recruited into extremist groups.
- Extremist groups
- Normative beliefs