states that “human beings are motivated to adopt and police a cultural belief system in order to allay their concerns over their own mortality. Sets of sacred values underpin strong belief systems; such values include those beliefs that an individual is unlikely to barter away or trade no matter how enticing the offer is.”47 The workshop summary further noted that “sacred values may prove a pathway towards better understanding the deep underlying motivations behind certain acts of political violence and identifying values that are less resistant to change.”

There are other examples of ways in which the expertise of social psychology may be relevant. For example, experiments have also shown that individuals are more willing to inflict pain on or otherwise abuse those who are not part of “their” group.48 How these fundamental aspects of human psychology play out in the context of conflict is addressed in the next section.

Some of the questions derived from social psychology include the following:

• When do attitudes toward a technology become a sacred value, so that groups support or oppose it as a matter of principle, indifferent to cost-benefit concerns?

• How do affinity groups form around new technologies, and when are they mobilized to action?

• How will knowledge about new technologies be disseminated through existing and evolving social networks, among allies and adversaries?

• How can prejudices regarding other groups affect assessments of their ability to use appropriate technologies?

Political Psychology

Political psychology is another relevant branch of psychology.49 For example, the United States uses armed remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) in Pakistan, a nominal ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda. Such use has


47 Tessa Baker and Sarah Canna, “The Neurobiology of Political Violence: New Tools, New Insights,”, 2010, available at

48 See, for example, James E. Waller, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, Oxford University Press, London, 2007; and Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, Harper and Row, New York, 1974.

49 A relevant paper providing an overview of some aspects of political psychology is Stephan Lewandowsky et al., “Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 13(3):106-131, 2012.

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