Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Michael A. Hogg

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William D. Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jason T. Siegel

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Amber M. Gaffney

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Jared K Chapman


Extreme Religious Leader, Leader Endorsement, Religiosity, Religious Extremism, Uncertainty, Uncertainty Identity Theory

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


Because religious extremism can set people on a path of aggression and violence toward others, sometimes in the form of terrorism (Moghaddam, 2005), identifying factors that increase susceptibility to religious extremism is essential to ending terrorism. One possible factor that acts as a catalyst leading people to religious extremism is uncertainty (Hogg et al., 2010a). To test this possibility, Chapman (2012) conducted an exploratory study assessing the effects of religiosity (defined as group, ritual, extrinsic, or external religiosity), spirituality (defined as individual, spiritual, intrinsic, or internal religiosity), and uncertainty (low, high) on a number of proxies for religious extremism, finding some evidence that low religiosity people were more susceptible to extremism than those with high religiosity or no religiosity. This unexpected finding informed the primary “malcontents in the middle” hypothesis for the present dissertation, which predicts low religiosity people to increase—and high religiosity people to decrease—their preferences for religious extremism under high uncertainty. Study 1 (N = 499) utilized measures and procedures derived from the 2012 study to assess the effects and interaction of religiosity and uncertainty while controlling for spirituality on five measures for proxies or correlates of religious extremism (ingroup clarity, ingroup superiority, member similarity, disliking critics, and engaging critics). Although the interactions were not significant, the trends were in the direction suggested by the primary hypothesis. Study 2 (N = 546) built on the design of Study 1, adding religious leader rhetoric (moderate or extreme) as a predictor and religious leader endorsement as the main dependent variable. In line with the primary hypothesis, high religiosity people did not increase their endorsement of an extreme leader from low to high uncertainty, although they did significantly decrease their endorsement of a moderate. As expected, low religiosity people did not differ in their endorsement of the moderate leader regardless of uncertainty. However, contrary to the primary hypothesis, they did not increase their endorsement of the extreme leader as uncertainty increased. These findings may suggest that, compared to those with high religiosity, low religiosity people experiencing high uncertainty tend to be more susceptible to religious extremism, except when the extremist rhetoric is explicit.