This research was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We are grateful to So-Jin Kang and Susan Clark for data collection in Study 5.
Anxious Uncertainty and Reactive Approach Motivation (RAM) for Religious, Idealistic, and Lifestyle Extremes
Article first published online: 9 SEP 2013
© 2013 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Journal of Social Issues
Special Issue: Uncertainty and Extremism
Volume 69, Issue 3, pages 537–563, September 2013
How to Cite
McGregor, I., Prentice, M. and Nash, K. (2013), Anxious Uncertainty and Reactive Approach Motivation (RAM) for Religious, Idealistic, and Lifestyle Extremes. Journal of Social Issues, 69: 537–563. doi: 10.1111/josi.12028
- Issue published online: 9 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 9 SEP 2013
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Reactive Approach Motivation (RAM) theory proposes that the personal uncertainty arising from motivational conflict causes anxiety, and that anxiety draws people to extremes because extremes activate approach-motivated states that automatically downregulate anxiety. Five new studies consolidate existing evidence for the RAM view of uncertainty-related threats and reactive extremism. In Studies 1–3, religious, idealistic, and RAM reactions after agentic, communal, and mortality threats were most extreme when threat-relevant goals had been implicitly primed to create motivational conflict. In Study 4 uncertainty predicted extreme reactions only if goal conflict had been experimentally manipulated. In Study 5 personal uncertainty uniquely predicted lifestyle extremes among undergraduates whose educational goals were conflicted by a labor disruption at their university. Results converge on the conclusion that uncertainty-related threats cause defensively extreme RAM reactions only if they arouse personal uncertainty about active goals. Results suggest that policies and programs to support the prosocial and/or nonextreme goals, ideals, and identifications of at-risk people would reduce their motivation for antisocial extremism.