Department of Political Science

“They Think We Are a Threat to Their Culture”: Meta-Cultural Threat Fuels Willingness and Endorsement of Extremist Violence against the Cultural Outgroup

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Milan Obaidi, Uppsala University, Yale University, Denmark
  • Lotte Thomsen
  • Robin Bergh, Harvard University, Uppsala University, United States

Far-right political parties in Europe regularly portray Muslims and Islam as backward and a symbolic threat to secular and/or Christian European culture. Similarly, Islamist groups regularly portray Westerners and Western culture as decadent and a symbolic threat to Islam. Here, we present experimental evidence that meta-cultural threat - information that members of an outgroup perceive one's own culture as a symbolic threat to their culture - increases intention and endorsement of political violence against that outgroup. We tested this in three experimental studies among Muslims and non-Muslims in Scandinavia. In Studies 1 and 2, we experimentally manipulated whether the dominant majority group was portrayed as seeing Muslim culture and lifestyle as backward and incompatible with their own culture. These portrayals increased the endorsement of extremist violence against the West and violent behavioural intentions among Muslims living in Denmark and Sweden. Study 3 used a similar paradigm among non-Muslim Danes and demonstrated that learning about Muslims portraying the non-Muslim Danish in-group as a threat increased endorsement of ethnic persecution of Muslims, conceptually replicating the general effect that meta-cultural threat fuels endorsement of extremist violence among both majority and minority groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbera647
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict and Violence
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • IMAGE, INDIVIDUALS, MEMBERS, MUSLIM, PERCEPTION, POLITICAL-ACTION, PREJUDICE, RECIPROCITY, SOCIAL-DOMINANCE, US, ethnic persecution, extremism, meta-cultural threat perception, political violence, right-wing and Islamist extremism

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 164410182