Ideological passion and violent activism: The moderating role of the significance quest

Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Jais Adam-Troian, Claudia F. Nisa, Birga M. Schumpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research examines how the relationship between passion for an ideology and violent activism is magnified by the personal (vs. collective) loss of significance. In Study 1 (N = 238), the relationship between obsessive (but not harmonious) passion for the Republican Party and violent activism was moderated by personal (but not collective) loss of significance. Study 2 (N = 612) replicated these findings with an experimental manipulation of personal and collective loss of significance in a sample of Black Lives Matter supporters. In Study 3 (N = 416), we set out to attenuate the obsessive passion–violent activism relationship by experimentally manipulating personal and collective significance gain. Echoing the results of Studies 1 and 2, the manipulation of personal (but not collective) significance gain reduced the relationship between obsessive passion for the environmental cause and violent activism. Furthermore, Study 3 examined the psychological mechanism at play by incorporating a measure of goal-shielding – a factor of theoretical relevance to explain extreme behaviour. Personal significance gain reduced individuals' proclivity to inhibit goals unrelated to their ideological pursuit, which in turn reduced their support for violent activism. These findings reveal psychological factors relevant to detecting at-risk individuals and implementing cost-effective prevention programmes against ideological violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-937
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • goal-shielding
  • passion
  • radicalization
  • significance quest
  • violent extremism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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