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Keywords:

  •  social dominance;
  • authoritarianism;
  • aggression;
  • power and status differences;
  • terrorism;
  • Middle East

Social dominance theory has generally posited that terror and intergroup violence can be explained in terms of social dominance struggles. Social dominance theorists have described terror mostly as a tool for maintaining intergroup hierarchies in society (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Although implications of the theory suggest that terror may also be used by lower status groups as a tool for the resistance of domination by higher status groups, this prediction heretofore has not been empirically demonstrated. Data from two samples, one in the United States and one in Lebanon, were collected regarding attitudes toward terrorism and intergroup violence. The results show that the American sample demonstrates the typical patterns of social dominance such that those who are higher in social dominance orientation tend to support greater violence toward the Middle East. However, the Lebanese sample shows the opposite pattern, such that those who are lower in social dominance orientation tend to support violence toward the West. These results suggest that (1) support for terrorism among Middle East citizens is a project of counterdominance, and, more broadly, that (2) the relationship between social dominance orientation and support for violence depends on the dynamics of the conflict and the status of the perpetrators.