Reactive Approach Motivation for Religious Zeal
Evidence from laboratory experiments reveals that:
1. Anxious and approach motivated people respond to various anxiety-related threats with a generalized surge in approach motivation.
2. The same combination of traits and threats heightens zeal for religious beliefs and willingness to die, support war, and go to extremes for it.
3. The same combination of traits and threats heightens engagement with important elements of radical religious zeal (values/ideals, fascist intolerance of dissent, exaggerated control/confidence, and punitive hostility).
4. Religious zeal and its elements heighten approach motivation.
5. Religious zeal and its elements relieve anxious distress.
These results are interpreted from the perspective of Reactive Approach Motivation theory: When faced with anxiety-related threats, some people use eager commitments as levers for activating approach motivated states that relieve anxiety. This evidence suggests avenues for intervention relating to goal progress, value-affirmation, group affirmation, and education about core religious ideals (which are universally prosocial).
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