BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Motivation to regain a strong American group identity was partly behind opposition to building the Ground Zero mosque in New York, researchers say.
Study co-authors Lile Jia, Samuel Karpen and Edward Hirt at Indiana University asked study participants, who were all American citizens, to read one of two articles. One described a thriving American economy and rising international status and the other depicted a bleak picture of the U.S. economy and a declining international status.
The participants who read the article that showcased a negative view of the U.S. economy and international status considered this information a threat to their usually positive group identity as an American. Their concern was not shared by those who read the positive article.
The study, published in Psychological Science, demonstrated that the participants who read the article about the decline of the United States, subsequently reported a greater opposition toward the building plan, were angrier with it and were more likely to sign a petition against the mosque.
Jia and co-authors state that people typically identify with their social groups along different dimensions -- importance, commitment, superiority and deference.
"In the context of Ground Zero Mosque, Americans who are loyal to the country on the deference dimension are especially responsive to the threat manipulation," Jia said in a statement. "Americans wanted to protect the Ground Zero area from any use that might be construed as disrespectful or inappropriate."