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ERIC Number: EJ1006944
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Apr
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0277
Sizing up the Threat: The Envisioned Physical Formidability of Terrorists Tracks Their Leaders' Failures and Successes
Holbrook, Colin; Fessler, Daniel M. T.
Cognition, v127 n1 p46-56 Apr 2013
Victory in modern intergroup conflict derives from complex factors, including weaponry, economic resources, tactical outcomes, and leadership. We hypothesize that the mind summarizes such factors into simple metaphorical representations of physical size and strength, concrete dimensions that have determined the outcome of combat throughout both ontogenetic and phylogenetic experience. This model predicts that in the aftermath of tactical victories (e.g., killing an enemy leader), members of defeated groups will be conceptualized as less physically formidable. Conversely, reminders that groups possess effective leadership should lead their members to be envisioned as more physically formidable. Consonant with these predictions, in both an opportunistic study conducted immediately after Osama bin Laden's death was announced (Study 1) and a follow-up experiment conducted approximately a year later (Study 2), Americans for whom the killing was salient estimated a purported Islamic terrorist to be physically smaller/weaker. In Studies 3 and 4, primes of victorious terrorist leaders led to inflated estimates of terrorists' physical attributes. These findings elucidate how the mind represents contemporary military power, and may help to explain how even largely symbolic victories can influence reasoning about campaigns of coalitional aggression. (Contains 6 tables and 3 figures.)
Elsevier. 3251 Riverport Lane, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. Tel: 800-325-4177; Tel: 314-447-8000; Fax: 314-447-8033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A