For the sake of the eternal group: Perceiving
the group as a Trans-generational Entity and
willingness to sacrifice ingroup members
Dennis T. Kahn1, Yechiel Klar1 & Sonia Roccas2
1 Tel
Aviv University 2 Open University of Israel
We focus on the extent to which social groups are perceived as Trans-generational Entities (TGE), including past and future generations of group members.
We examined the utility of this construct in a series of studies focusing on perceptions of one’s own national group in the context of a violent conflict. In a first
study (N=103), our measure of TGE correlated positively with Group Primacy, i.e. willingness to sacrifice members of the ingroup for the sake of the ingroup
itself. Study 2 (N=119) showed that TGE was positively correlated to readiness for indefinite endurance of the sufferings experienced by the ingroup in an
intergroup conflict. Study 3 (N=152), showed that a religious sample to a larger extent perceived the group as a TGE, showed a greater degree of Group
Primacy and displayed more willingness to endure ingroup suffering as a result of intergroup conflict, as compared to the secular sample. Furthermore,
perceiving the group as a trans-generational entity and supporting Group Primacy was shown to be related to an increased willingness to sacrifice the
personal interests of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the sake of Israeli national interests.
"Take now thy son, thine only son,
whom thou lovest, even Isaac . . .and
offer him there for a burnt-offering”
(Genesis 22:2)
Introduction and Hypotheses
The study of group perception has produced a wealth of research in the last decade (Yzerbyt, Judd, & Corneille, 2004), most notably in the fields of entitativity (Campbell, 1958; Brewer &
Harasty, 1996; Hamilton & Sherman, 1996; Lickel, Hamilton, Wieczokowska, Lewis, Sherman, & Uhles, 2000) and psychological essentialism (Haslam, 1998; Haslam, Rothschild & Ernst,
2000; Gelman, 2003). However, even though researchers across a wide range of social sciences consider the time dimension to be a crucial building block in the construction and
maintenance of social identity (e.g. Anderson, 1991; Condor, 1996; Hobsbawn, 1990; Kohl & Fawcett, 1996; Reicher & Hopkins, 2001; Wertsch, 2002; Liu & Hilton, 2005), research on this
component of group life has up until recently been virtually non-existent. One salient exception is Sani and colleagues who recently have constructed a scale of Perceived Collective Continuity
(PCC), measuring the degree to which you perceive the national group to have remained the same across the centuries (Sani, Bowe, Herrera, Manna, Cossa, Miao & Zhou, 2007; Sani, F.,
Herrera, M., & Bowe, M., 2009). In addition to being perceived as entitative (constituting an independent entity) and continuous (unchanged through history), we propose that large-scale social
groups can be perceived as a Trans-generational Entities (TGEs). We define TGE as perceiving the group as an entity including all past and future generations of the group. TGE is measured
with the help of a 5-item scale including items such as “For me, my national group includes all the generations of group members that ever have and ever will exist“. We further propose that
the degree to which you perceive the group as a TGE affects your attitudes regarding intergroup conflicts. If your commitment to the group lies with the group as a TGE rather than exclusively
with the currently living group members, then you may under some circumstances be willing to sacrifice the interests of the currently living group members for the sake of the eternal group.
We hypothesize that:
1. Groups can to a varying extent be perceived as Trans-generational Entities (TGE)
2. Seeing the group as a TGE is positively related to an increased willingness for sacrificing members of the ingroup for the sake of the ingroup itself
3. Seeing the group as a TGE is positively related to an increased readiness for indefinite endurance of the sufferings experienced by the ingroup in an intergroup conflict
Method and Results
Study 1
A measure for the concept of TGE was created and the hypothesized relations
between variables in our model were tested. 103 Jewish-Israeli students
completed a series of questionnaires, including:
Trans-generational Entity (sample item: “For me, my national group includes all
the generations of group members that ever have and ever will exist")
Group Primacy (e.g., “It is justified that members of my national group
sometimes need to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group")
Religiosity (“Please state your degree of religiosity”)
Right Wing Political orientation (“To what degree are the opinions of the
political right similar to yours?”)
All scales were measured on a likert-scale from 1 to 7
Consequences
Antecedents
.33**(.35**)
Religiosity
.36**(.39**)
Group Primacy
Trans-generational
Entity
.39**(.28**)
Right wing Political
Orientation
.24*(15 n.s.)
Study 2
Study 2 (N=119) replicated the findings from study 1 and showed that TGE was
positively correlated to an indefinite willingness to endure the sufferings involved in
an intergroup conflict. Students at a preparatory program for Tel Aviv University
completed the TGE and Group/Member Primacy Scales as well as a scale
measuring:
Conflict Endurance (e.g. “Even if the conflict will require present day suffering from
us, we have to be ready to endure it for as long as it takes for the sake of the future
of the group”
Study 3
Study 3 (N=152), showed that a religious sample perceived the national group as a
TGE, showed a greater degree of group primacy and displayed more willingness to
endure ingroup suffering as a result of an intergroup conflict, as compared to a
secular sample. Perceiving the group as a trans-generational entity was related to
an increased willingness
to sacrifice the personal interests of a captured Israeli
3
soldier (Gilad Shalit) for the sake of Israeli national interests (sample item: “The
people of Israel is morally justified to ask from Gilad Shalit's family to put the
national interest before their personal interest”)The effect of TGE on willingness to
3
sacrifice the interests of Gilad Shalit for the sake of Israeli national interests was
mediated by Group Primacy.
3
Conflict
Endurance
(.33**)
Figure 1: Standardized regression coefficients for the relation between antecedents and
consequences of TGE, study 1 & 2. Results from study 2 are in parentheses.
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is
currently being held capture by
the Palestinian militant
organization Hamas and
negotiations are being conducted
to free Gilad Shalit in exchange
for a high number of Palestinian
prisoners.
Group Primacy
.33**
.66**
7
6.16
6
5.58
5.32
5.25
5
4.59
Trans-generational
Entity
4.38
4
.27**
(.10)
Willingness to
sacrifice Gilad Shalit
for the sake of the
national group
3
Figure 3: Standardized regression coefficients for the relationship between TGE and
willingness to sacrifice Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the sake of the national group as
mediated by Group Primacy. The regression coefficient when controlled for Group
Primacy is in parentheses.
2
1
TGE
Group Primacy
Religious Sample
Conflict Endurance
Secular Sample
Figure 2: Means for the variables of TGE, Group Primacy and Conflict Endurance for a
religious and a secular sample.
Conclusions and References
3
The studies show that people differ in the extent to which they perceive their national group as a Trans-generational entity. TGE was found to be positively correlated to an increased willingness for
sacrificing members of the ingroup for the sake of the ingroup itself and also to an increased readiness for indefinite endurance of the sufferings experienced by the ingroup as a consequence of
intergroup conflict. The increased willingness for ingroup sacrifice was tested with the help of a real-life example of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. TGE was found to be positively correlated to an
increased willingness to sacrifice the interest of Gilad Shalit for the sake of Israeli national interests, and this correlation was found to be mediated by Group Primacy.
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Perceiving the Group as a Trans