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Warrior Motivation: A Cross Cultural Search

Why do people engage in the extremities of war, against their own health and safety, without an outside force pressuring them? Cultural rewards are a possibility, yet no research has systematically revealed the number and types of rewards that are given across human societies. Ethnographies offer an insight to past and present societies and their response to war and it’s veterans; they also highlight a significant lack of data in ethnographies surrounding modern American warfare. Pinpointing motivating factors for individuals that engage in culturally acceptable conflict can inform modern response to the post combat treatment of warriors. Here we seek to reveal the diversity and distribution of cultural rewards for participating in warfare, using an ethnographic, cross cultural database, the electronic Human Relation Area Files, that catalogs the rewards that various cultures use to motivate participation. Pre-industrial societies are surveyed, and the relevant data on war rewards is extracted; 178 separate instances have been extracted surrounding the gifts given to returning warriors. Next, we run statistical analysis to determine how the presence or absence of intangible and tangible gifts covary with each culture and gift systems. Ultimately, this project seeks to understand why people go to war and how societies help warriors reintegrate into society following combat. If successful, this research may stimulate evidence-based strategies for assisting warriors to cope with the psychological trauma of war, as well as mechanisms for societal reintegration.


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Presenter(s)

Andrea Uehling

Mentor(s)

Shane Macfarlane

Author(s)

Andrea Uehling

Type: Oral
Discipline: Humanities
Institution: University of Utah

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