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Psychol Sci. 2014 Jan;25(1):198-206. doi: 10.1177/0956797613504303. Epub 2013 Nov 21.

Religion and intergroup conflict: findings from the Global Group Relations Project.

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1Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.


How might religion shape intergroup conflict? We tested whether religious infusion-the extent to which religious rituals and discourse permeate the everyday activities of groups and their members-moderated the effects of two factors known to increase intergroup conflict: competition for limited resources and incompatibility of values held by potentially conflicting groups. We used data from the Global Group Relations Project to investigate 194 groups (e.g., ethnic, religious, national) at 97 sites around the world. When religion was infused in group life, groups were especially prejudiced against those groups that held incompatible values, and they were likely to discriminate against such groups. Moreover, whereas disadvantaged groups with low levels of religious infusion typically avoided directing aggression against their resource-rich and powerful counterparts, disadvantaged groups with high levels of religious infusion directed significant aggression against them-despite the significant tangible costs to the disadvantaged groups potentially posed by enacting such aggression. This research suggests mechanisms through which religion may increase intergroup conflict and introduces an innovative method for performing nuanced, cross-societal research.


competition; cross-cultural; cross-cultural differences; global; intergroup conflict; intergroup dynamics; methods; prejudice; religion; religious beliefs; resources; values; violence

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