Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"Meaning Seeking in Extremist Groups"

Tilburg University - Social Psychology

PhD Student
Willem Sleegers

Prof.dr. I. van Beest (UvT)
Dr. T. Proulx (UvT)

1 October 2012 - 1 October 2016

Tilburg University


People seek meaning and adopt meaning frameworks, or sets of beliefs through which they understand the world and find purpose. However, threats of any kind can affect these meaning frameworks. Uncertain economic times violate our expectancies of a stable nation, unfair treatment violates our expectations of a just world, and racial discrimination violates our expectations of social equality. These meaning threats are believed to evoke a psychophysiological threat response that motivates people to restore meaning by affirming the violated meaning framework, or even other, unrelated, meaning frameworks.

We investigate whether people with extremist values show a greater reactivity to meaning threats that motivates them to more strongly affirm their extremist attitudes. Furthermore, as violations of one framework can be restored using another, we also investigate whether extremists are less likely to have a wide array of sources they draw meaning from, which would funnel their meaning restoration efforts to fewer sources. Lastly we look at the relationship between extremists and attachment styles, as insecurely attached people have been shown to interpret stressful events, including violations of meaning frameworks, as more threatening.

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