Data from: Neuroimaging “will to fight” for sacred values: an empirical case study with supporters of an Al Qaeda affiliate
Hamid, Nafees et al. (2019), Data from: Neuroimaging “will to fight” for sacred values: an empirical case study with supporters of an Al Qaeda affiliate, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.c0k33vf
Violent intergroup conflicts are often motivated by commitments to abstract ideals such as god or nation, so-called “sacred” values that are relatively insensitive to material incentives or disincentives. There is scant knowledge of how the brain processes costly sacrifices for such cherished causes. We studied willingness to fight and die for sacred values using fMRI among supporters of a radical Islamist group from different neighborhoods in and around Barcelona, Spain. We measured brain activity in radicalized individuals as they indicated their willingness to fight and die for sacred and non-sacred values, and as they reacted to peers’ ratings for the same values. We observed diminished activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), inferior frontal gyrus, and parietal cortex while participants conveyed willingness to fight and die for sacred relative to non-sacred values - regions that have previously been implicated in calculating costs and consequences. These differences could not be attributed to differences between sacred and non-sacred values in emotional intensity, familiarity or salience. An overlapping region of dlPFC was active when viewing conflicting ratings of sacred values from peers, to the extent participants were sensitive to peer influence, suggesting that it is possible to induce flexibility in the way people defend sacred values. Our results are consistent with a view that “devoted actors” motivated by an extreme commitment towards sacred in-group values rely on distinctive neurocognitve processes that can be identified.