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Identity Centrality and In-Group Superiority Differentially Predict Reactions to Historical Victimization and Harm Doing

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Two U.S. studies report a differential effect of identity centrality and in-group superiority on reactions to in-group victimization and in-group harm-doing. Study 1 (N = 80) found that higher identity centrality predicted less justification for freely-recalled in-group victim events, whereas higher in-group superiority predicted more justification for freely-recalled in-group harm-doing events. Study 2 (N = 105) reexamined these findings in specific contexts of historical victimization (Pearl Harbor) and harm-doing (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), finding that in-group superiority was a predictor of reactions to historical in-group harm-doing (justification, emotional reactions, importance of events), whereas centrality was a predictor of reactions to historical in-group victimization.
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ISSN: 1864–1385
Identity Centrality and In-Group Superiority
Differentially Predict Reactions to Historical
Victimization and Harm Doing
Rezarta Bilali, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, University of
Massachusetts Boston, United States
urn:nbn:de:0070-ijcv-20122156
IJCV: Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
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Empowering Students Against Bullying and Cyberbullying: Evaluation of an Italian Peer-led Model Ersilia
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Identity Centrality and In-Group Superiority Differentially Predict Reactions to Historical Victimization and Harm
Doing Rezarta Bilali (pp. 321 – 337)
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Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 322
Identity Centrality and In-Group Superiority
Differentially Predict Reactions to Historical
Victimization and Harm Doing
Rezarta Bilali, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, University of
Massachusetts Boston, United States
Two U.S. studies report a differential effect of identity centrality and in-group superiority on reactions to in-group victimization and in-group harm-doing. Study
1 (N = 80) found that higher identity centrality predicted less justification for freely-recalled in-group victim events, whereas higher in-group superiority pre-
dicted more justification for freely-recalled in-group harm-doing events. Study 2 (N = 105) reexamined these findings in specific contexts of historical victimiz-
ation (Pearl Harbor) and harm-doing (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), finding that in-group superiority was a predictor of reactions to historical in-group harm-doing
(justification, emotional reactions, importance of events), whereas centrality was a predictor of reactions to historical in-group victimization.
Historical memory serves important functions for groups.
History constitutes an important part of a group’s self-
image and serves to establish a sense of common fate in
group members (Billig 1995). Group members rely on his-
tory to enhance group identity (Volpato and Licata 2010).
History also informs a group’s understanding of the pres-
ent and shapes expectations for the future (Bilali and Ross
2012). For instance, historical memories play an important
role in maintaining and exacerbating intergroup conflict
(Devine-Wright 2003). They serve to justify outbreaks of
violence and delegitimize the opponent (Bar-Tal 2003).
In recent years, a surge of social psychological research has
investigated people’s reactions to their groups’ or nations’
troubled histories (e.g., Branscombe and Doosje 2004;
Doosje et al. 1998; also see the International Journal of Con-
flict and Violence focus section on collective memories, Vol-
pato and Licata 2010). Generally this research has examined
the consequences of historical memories, such as reactions
to descriptions of historical events of an in-group’s harm
doing (e.g., Cehajic, Brown, and González 2009; Doosje et
al. 1998; Zebel, Doosje, and Spears 2004; Iyer, Leach and
Crosby, 2003), or the impact of reminders of past victimiz-
ation on emotional reactions (Frijda 1997; Liu and László
2007) and on attitudes toward current conflicts (e.g., Wohl
and Branscombe 2008). The factors that shape individuals’
historical memories are not as well understood, however.
People learn about the in-group’s history through media,
education, leaders, public images and symbols, and con-
versations with family and peers. Although historical mem-
ories are often shared within a group (Bar-Tal 2003),
members exhibit clear differences in their endorsement of
historical memories. Therefore, individual-level factors
might also influence historical memories. Whereas some
research has investigated factors that influence historical
memories of the in-group’s harm-doing (e.g., in-group
identification, Bilali, Tropp, and Dasgupta 2012; Sahdra
and Ross 2007; right wing authoritarianism, Sibley, Wilson,
and Robertson, 2007), our knowledge of what shapes
memories of past victimization is limited. The research de-
scribed here investigates the factors that shape historical
memories of past in-group victimization and harm-doing
events. Building on previous research, I adopt social iden-
tity theory as the guiding framework in this research.
1. In-Group Identification and Historical Memories
According to social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner
1986), people derive their self-concepts, in part, from their
membership in social groups. Because individuals are
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 323
motivated to view themselves positively, they are also moti-
vated to view their groups favorably. History constitutes an
important part of a group’s image. The drive to maintain a
positive self-image should encourage in-group-serving at-
tributions in recollections of the group’s past (Doosje and
Branscombe 2003). For instance, Baumeister and Hastings
(1997) observed that distortions of past events that portray
the in-group positively are more frequent than distortions
that portray the in-group negatively.
Similar patterns have emerged both in laboratory and field
settings. For example, in a lab study, participants categor-
ized into arbitrary groups expected in-group members to
engage in more positive behaviors than out-group
members and subsequently recalled more positive be-
haviors and fewer negative behaviors committed by
members of their in-group than by out-group members
(Howard and Rothbart 1980). In addition, because group
members are not equally attached to their group, they are
not equally motivated to protect the in-group’s positive
image. Individuals to whom group identity is important
ought to be more motivated to maintain a positive image
of their group, which in turn should lead to endorsing
more in-group-favorable memories of the past (Sahdra
and Ross 2007). For instance, Sahdra and Ross (2007)
found that the more participants identified with their
group (either Sikh or Hindu), the less they recalled events
in which the in-group was a perpetrator. However, they did
not find a relationship between in-group identification and
recollections of in-group victim events. While the moti-
vation to maintain a positive self-image helps to illuminate
biases in historical memories of in-group’s misdeeds, it
does not explain individual differences in historical mem-
ories of in-group victimization. Is in-group identification
then irrelevant to remembering an in-group’s past victim-
ization? I suggest that historical memories surrounding in-
group victimization and in-group harm-doing are likely to
be linked to distinct dimensions of in-group identification.
1.1. Dimensionality of Identification with Ethnic or National Group
There are two main approaches in the study of ethnic and
national identification. The first draws from social identity
theory and conceptualizes national identification as yet an-
other form of in-group identification. Within this tradi-
tion, in-group identification has been usually treated as a
unidimensional construct; however, a growing literature
(e.g., Cameron and Lalonde 2001; Cameron 2004; El-
lemers, Kortekaas, and Ouwerkerk 1999; Jackson 2002;
Leach et al. 2008) shows that a multidimensional con-
ceptualization is more appropriate. While there are dis-
agreements about the number and the nature of the
dimensions (see Leach et al. 2008), Tajfel’s original con-
ceptualization of social identity (1978) included evaluative,
cognitive, and affective components.
The second approach conceptualizes national identity as a
specific form of attachment to the group expressed either
as nationalism or patriotism. Patriotism is perceived as a
healthy national self-concept, and as positive love of one’s
own country (Bar-Tal 1993; Kosterman and Feshbach
1989) independent of out-group derogation (Brewer
1999). In contrast, nationalism is related to intergroup dif-
ferentiation. The most important underlying dimension of
nationalism is the view that one’s own group is superior to
other groups (Kosterman and Feshbach 1989).
In-group superiority. Drawing from both literatures, Roc-
cas, Klar, and Livitian (2006) distinguish between two di-
mensions of identification: glorification and attachment.
Glorification refers to beliefs in in-group superiority and
deference to group norms and symbols (related to
nationalism), whereas attachment refers to cognitive and
emotional attachment to the in-group, such as self-
definition as a group member or commitment to the
group. The glorification dimension possesses a strong
evaluative component. The evaluative component (i.e.,
evaluating the in-group as positive or negative) has been
the most common way of thinking about in-group identifi-
cation (Leach et al. 2008; for a review see Ashmore, Deaux,
and McLaughlin-Volpe 2004), and has driven predictions
regarding the effects of the strength of in-group identifica-
tion. That is, the motivation to view one’s group in a posi-
tive light may drive distortions and legitimizations of past
events where the in-group was the perpetrator. Roccas and
colleagues (2006; see also Leidner et al. 2010) used this
rationale to suggest that the glorification dimension (i.e.,
positive evaluation dimension), rather than group attach-
ment, drives denial of in-group responsibility for harm-
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 324
doing and legitimization of past in-group harms. Recently,
Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, Halevy, and Eidelson (2008)
further distinguish two dimensions of in-group glorifi-
cation: deference and superiority. Of these two dimensions,
only the latter constitutes an evaluative component. One
way in which group members can maintain an in-group’s
favorable image is to view the in-group as better than other
groups. This is particularly relevant in conflict contexts due
to the comparative and competitive nature of intergroup
conflict. Based on this discussion, it is in-group superiority
that drives favorable in-group interpretations of an in-
group’s harm doing.
Identity centrality. Roccas and colleagues (2008) also dis-
tinguish between two components related to attachment:
commitment and identity centrality (which they refer to as
importance). I will specifically focus on identity centrality
as an important component capturing the cognitive and af-
fective aspects of in-group identification. Identity cen-
trality is defined as the degree of importance and chronic
salience of a group membership to a person’s self-concept
(Ashmore et al. 2004; Leach et al. 2008; Luhtanen and
Crocker 1992). Identity centrality has been linked to in-
creased perceptions of threat toward the in-group (Leach et
al. 2008; Sellers and Shelton 2003). Indeed, various studies
suggest a link between identity centrality and perceived in-
group victimization (e.g., in-group discrimination). In one
direction, discrimination experiences or prejudice toward
the in-group might strengthen the importance of that
group membership (e.g., Branscombe, Schmitt, and Harvey
1999; Jetten et al. 2001). In the other direction, high cen-
trality of the group membership to a person’s self-concept
might intensify the sense of in-group discrimination (e.g.,
Major, Quinton, and Schmader 2003). In support of the
latter directional link, a longitudinal study with Latino and
White college students on a university campus in the
United States showed that ethnic identification at Time 1
predicted heightened perceptions of ethnic victimization
three years later, whereas the reverse link from a sense of
victimization to ethnic identification was not significant
(Thomsen et al. 2010). In that study, the ethnic identifica-
tion measure was closely related to identity centrality: The
three-item ethnic identification scale included two items
tapping the identity centrality dimension, whereas one
item assessed in-group ties (i.e., how close respondents felt
to other members of their ethnic group). Overall, these
studies support the idea that the centrality dimension of
in-group identification is closely related to perceptions of
in-group victimization.
1.2. Identity Centrality, In-Group Superiority and Historical Memories
The conceptual distinctions between in-group superiority
and identity centrality may lead to differences regarding
how each dimension relates to memories and interpre-
tations of past intergroup conflict. Recent literature sug-
gests that harm-doing events pose a threat to a group’s
morality (e.g., Doosje et al. 1998; Wohl, Branscombe, and
Klar 2006). Shnabel and Nadler (2008) argue that the con-
flictual past poses different concerns for victims and perpe-
trators. Whereas perpetrators are concerned with restoring
the morality of their group, victims are motivated to re-
store lost power. These perspectives suggest that different
types of events (i.e., in-group harm-doing vs. in-group vic-
timization) raise different concerns for group members.
For instance, terrorist attacks might threaten American
identity and the well-being of American people, but not
necessarily the evaluation of American identity as positive
or negative. However, harm-doing events (e.g., the Abu
Ghraib events) typically threaten the in-group’s positive
image. Furthermore, different ways of relating to the in-
group might elicit sensitivity to different types of group
threats. The desire to maintain a positive and moral self-
image might prompt members of groups that have per-
petrated harm to downplay in-group’s negative events,
minimize the negative consequences of these events, or
shift the focus to mitigating conditions that serve to dis-
place in-group’s responsibility. Building on previous re-
search (e.g., Roccas et al. 2006; Leidner et al. 2010), I
suggest that in-group superiority should further strengthen
these effects. In turn, identity centrality might elicit re-
sponses when an in-group’s wellbeing or in-group identity
(not its positive evaluation) is directly threatened. For in-
stance, Baumeister and colleagues (e.g., Baumeister, Still-
well, and Wotman 1990; Baumeister and Catanese 2001)
observe that victims’ accounts of interpersonal transgress-
ions emphasized the negative and lasting consequences of
harm and perpetrators’ responsibility for the acts. I pre-
dicted that in an intergroup context identity centrality
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 325
should strengthen these effects. The more central group
identity is to self-concept, the more the members of victim
groups will emphasize in-group victimization – the
negative consequences of the harm and perpetrators’ re-
sponsibility for the acts.
2. Study 1: U.S. as Victim or Perpetrator
The aim of Study 1 was to provide an initial test of these
ideas. For this purpose I adopted the free recall task used
by Sahdra and Ross (2007, study 1). I hypothesized that
identity centrality and in-group superiority would dif-
ferentially predict the number of freely-recalled victim and
perpetrator events, as well as the degree to which these vi-
olent acts are perceived as justifiable. Based on this, I de-
rived two hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1. In-group superiority should predict remem-
bering of an in-group’s past misdeeds, such as recollections
of fewer events in which the in-group was a perpetrator
(H1a), and increased justification for in-group perpetrator
events (H1b).
Hypothesis 2. Identity centrality should predict remem-
bering of an in-group’s past victimization, such as recall of
more events in which the in-group was a victim (H2a), and
less justification for in-group victim events (H2b).
2.1. Methods
2.1.1. Participants and Procedures
Eighty participants (61 women, 19 men) were recruited at
a university in the Northeastern United States. Participants
were told that they were participating in a study examining
their opinions on important events in U.S. history. First,
participants were asked to complete measures of in-group
(i.e., American) identification, then they were asked to
freely recall and rate the justifiability of past events in
which the U.S. was either a victim or a perpetrator.
2.1.2. Measures
Identity centrality and in-group superiority. Identity cen-
trality was measured by the following three items: “Being an
American is an important part of how I see myself,” “I often
think about the fact that I am American” (adapted from
Cameron 2004; Leach at al. 2008), and “Being an American
is an important part of my self-image” (adapted from
Cameron 2004). All items were measured using six-point
scales ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly
agree). The three items were aggregated to form a measure
of identity centrality (α = .87) (M = 3.59, SD = 1.17).
Two items that tapped the superiority dimension (rather
than deference dimension) in Roccas et al.’s glorification
scale (2006) were used to measure in-group superiority:
“Relative to other nations, the U.S. is a very moral nation”
and “The U.S. is better than all other nations in all respects.”
The two items were averaged to form a composite measure
(α = .66) of in-group superiority (M = 2.85, SD = 1.09).
The correlation between identity centrality and in-group
superiority was moderate (r = .40) suggesting that the two
identity dimensions are distinct and could be entered as
simultaneous predictors in data analyses without raising
multicollinearity concerns.
Free recall task. Participants were asked to think about the
recent history of the United States (past one hundred
years) and its role in international arena. Then, they were
asked to recall up to six events in which the United States
was a perpetrator of violent episodes committed toward
another country or group, and up to six events in which
the United States was a victim of violent episodes com-
mitted by other countries or groups.
Justification. For each recalled event, participants were
asked to rate the extent to which they believed the events
were justifiable in a scale ranging from 1 (not justified) to 6
(very justified). Justification ratings were averaged separ-
ately across perpetrator and victim events, forming one
composite score for the degree of justification of victim
events and one score for the degree of justification of per-
petrator events.
2.1.3. Data Analysis
Repeated measures general linear models (GLM) were con-
ducted with identity centrality and in-group superiority as
continuous predictors. Type of event (perpetrator vs. vic-
tim) was the within-subject factor. The dependent variables
were (1) the number of recalled events, and (2) justifi-
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 326
cation of the events. The simultaneous inclusion of identity
centrality and in-group superiority as predictors made it
possible to assess the unique effects of each identity dimen-
sion controlling for the other dimension. The interaction
between in-group superiority and identity centrality was
also tested in initial analyses. Because there were no sig-
nificant interaction effects, the interaction term was ex-
cluded from the final analyses.
2.2. Results
2.2.1. Number of Recalled Events
The recalled events included the atomic bombings of Hi-
roshima and Nagasaki, slavery, abuse at Abu Ghraib and
Guantanamo Bay, the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
as perpetrator events, and terrorist attacks on U.S. targets
as victim events including the Pearl Harbor attack, the
9/11, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the USS Cole bombing.
Some events, such as the Vietnam War, were included
among perpetrator events by some participants, but among
victim events by others.
The GLM yielded no difference between the number of
perpetrator events and the number of victim events re-
called, F (1, 77) = 2.01, p = .16, η2 = .025. For each type of
event, participants wrote down, on average, slightly more
than two events (for means and standard deviations of all
items see Table 1). The results revealed a superiority x type
interaction, F (1, 77) = 7.46, p < .01, η2 = .09. As expected
(H1a), higher in-group superiority marginally predicted
recall of fewer events in which the in-group was a perpetra-
tor, but in-group superiority did not predict the number of
recalled events in which the in-group was a victim.
Contrary to the predictions (H2a), centrality was not as-
sociated with the number of recalled events, F (1, 77) =
1.53, p = .22, η2 = .02, and its interaction with type of event
was not significant, F (1, 77) = 1.08, p = .30, η2 = .01. All
standardized regression coefficients are shown in Table 1.
2.2.2. Justification
The GLM yielded a main effect of type of event, F (1, 59) =
19.53, p < .001, ² = .25, indicating that in-group victim
events were perceived to be less justifiable than in-group
harm-doing (perpetrator) events (see Table 1). As ex-
pected, the effect of type was qualified by two-way inter-
actions with centrality, F (1, 59) = 18.46, p < .001, ² = .24,
and Superiority, F (1, 59) = 11.18, p = .001, ² = .16. Sup-
porting both hypotheses (H1b and H2b), higher identity
centrality predicted less justification for events in which
the in-group was a victim, whereas higher in-group su-
periority predicted more justification for events in which
the in-group was a perpetrator (see Table 1). Identity cen-
trality did not predict justification for perpetrator events,
and superiority did not predict justification for victim
events.
Table 1: Regressions predicting construals of historical events from identity centrality and in-group superiority (means, standard deviations, and
standardized beta coefficients) (Study 1)
.
Number of recalled events
Justification
Number of recalled events
Justification
M
Victim events
2.12
1.89
Perpetrator events
2.25
2.91
SD
1.11
.99
1.73
1.31
Centrality
β
.14
-.34
.18
.14
p
.31
.01
.29
.32
Superiority
β
-.13
-.16
-.24
.36
p
.36
.23
.08
.009
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 327
2.3. Discussion
This study lends support to the hypothesis that identity
centrality and in-group superiority are differentially as-
sociated with justification of different types of events. As
expected, the results revealed that higher identity centrality
predicted less justification for events in which the in-group
was a victim, whereas higher superiority predicted more
justification for events in which the in-group was a perpe-
trator of attacks. In addition, the superiority dimension
was a marginal predictor for the number of recalled events
in which the in-group was a perpetrator. Interestingly,
there was no difference between the number of perpetrator
and victim events recalled, and contrary to predictions,
identity centrality was not associated with the number of
recalled victim events.
Unlike Sahdra and Ross’s study (2007), in which partici-
pants were asked to recall violent events that occurred
within a particular intergroup conflict context, participants
in the present study were asked to recall a variety of perpe-
trator and victim events in U.S. history. As a consequence,
participants in this study reported major historical events
such as the Vietnam War, Pearl Harbor, atomic bombings
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 9/11 attacks, or the war in
Iraq. Due to the prominence of these events in the history
of the United States, it is possible that individual dif-
ferences in dimensions of in-group identification (e.g.,
identity centrality) might influence construals of major
events without impacting their recollection. This might ex-
plain the lack of relationship between the two in-group
identification dimensions and the number of recalled
events. Therefore, in Study 2, I extended the investigation
by examining group members’ construals of a specific in-
group victim event (Pearl Harbor) and a specific in-group
perpetrator event (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), which were
mentioned by the majority of participants in Study 1.
3. Study 2: Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima
Study 2 aimed to replicate and extend the findings of Study
1. In Study 2, instead of asking participants to freely recall
historical events, I assessed their construals of two import-
ant events in U.S. history: the atomic bombings of Hiroshi-
ma and Nagasaki (a harm-doing event) and the Pearl
Harbor attack (a victimization event). There were two main
reasons for the choice of these two events. First, a majority
of respondents in Study 1 freely recalled Pearl Harbor and
Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, suggesting that American
college students are familiar with these two events. Second,
as Study 2 aimed to compare construals of a victim versus a
perpetrator event, it was important to consider two histori-
cal events that differed mainly in one dimension (i.e., vic-
tim versus perpetrator), but were similar in other
important dimensions that might drive differential con-
struals. For instance, the events have similar temporal dis-
tance, and the out-group (i.e., the Japanese) is the same in
both incidents. Therefore, any differences in participants’
reactions to these events will be due to the type of event
(i.e., victim versus perpetrator) rather than to different
temporal distance or characteristics of the out-group.
One important weakness of Study 1 was the single-item
justification measure. To better assess the construals of
these events, and to complement the justification measure
used in Study 1, in study 2 I also examined exonerating
cognitions. In addition, I assessed emotional reactions
(anger and sympathy) and the perceived importance of
each historical event (personal importance and importance
in U.S. history).
Similar to the predictions in Study 1, I expected that iden-
tity centrality would predict construals of in-group victim
event, whereas in-group superiority would predict con-
struals of in-group perpetrator event.
Hypothesis 1. In-group superiority should predict favorable
in-group construals of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, but should not be associated with construals
of the Pearl Harbor attack. Specifically, higher in-group su-
periority would predict more justification of the atomic
bombings (H1a), less anger toward the United States, and
less sympathy for the Japanese (H1b). Higher in-group su-
periority should also be associated with evaluating the
atomic bombings as less important in U.S. history (H1c).
Hypothesis 2. In contrast, identity centrality should predict
construals of the Pearl Harbor attack, but not of the atomic
bombings. Those participants to whom identity is more
central to their self-concept should view Pearl Harbor to be
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 328
less justifiable (H2a). They would also report more anger
toward Japan, more sympathy for American victims (H2b),
and would view Pearl Harbor as more important in U.S.
history (H2c).
3.1. Methods
3.1.1. Participants
Participants were 105 undergraduates (86 women, 19 men)
at a university in the Northeastern United States (mean age
= 20.64, SD = 3.17). Participants were awarded research
credits for their participation.
Sixteen participants reported coming from a working class
or a lower-middle-class family, forty-eight from a middle-
class family, and forty-one from an upper-middle-class
family. Eighty-six participants identified themselves as
White, five as Asian, three as Black, six as Hispanic, and the
rest identified with an ethnic group not identified in the
questionnaire.
One item asked participants to categorize themselves
politically on a six-point scale from -3 (very liberal) to +3
(very conservative). The mean self-reported political orien-
tation within the sample was slightly liberal (M = -1.04, SD
= 1.64). Another item assessed participants’ interest in his-
tory: “Generally speaking how much interest would you
say you have in history?” (-3 = very uninterested; +3 = very
interested). Participants were mildly interested in history
(M = .45, SD = 1.91).
3.1.2. Procedures
Participants in the psychology department’s subject pool
were invited to participate in a survey research on “public
opinions about contemporary and historical events in the
United States.” The first set of items in the questionnaire
assessed identity centrality and in-group superiority (with
regard to American identity). The second set assessed reac-
tions toward two historical events: the Pearl Harbor attack
and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To
control for order effects, half of the sample first completed
the survey section on Pearl Harbor, whereas the other half
first completed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki section. At the
end, participants completed demographic items. Partici-
pants received research credits for their participation.
3.1.3. Measures
Identity centrality and in-group superiority. As in Study 1,
three items were used to assess identity centrality. However,
in order to increase the validity of the scale, the item “I
often think about the fact that I am an American” (referring
to identity salience, see Sellers et al. 1998) was replaced with
another item specifically tapping the identity centrality con-
struct: “The fact that I am American is an important part of
my identity” (adapted from Leach et al. 2008).
The same items as in Study 1 were used to assess in-group
superiority, with the addition of one more item to improve
the scale’s reliability: “My nation is superior to other
nations in most respects.” All items were measured on six-
point scales (1 = strongly disagree; 6 = strongly agree).
Each three-item scale revealed good reliability (α = .90 for
identity centrality; and α = .74 for in-group superiority).
The mean identity centrality (M = 3.98, SD = 1.23) and in-
group superiority (M = 3.24, SD = 1.23) were both slightly
above the respective scale’s mid-point. The correlation be-
tween identity centrality and in-group superiority was
moderate (r = .46).
Justification. The same item as in Study 1 was used to assess
the degree to which participants perceived the violent
events to be justifiable.
Exonerating cognitions. Three items were constructed to as-
sess the degree to which participants used exonerating cog-
nitions to legitimize the attacks: “Considering the
conditions of the World War, the Americans [Japanese] at-
tacked Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Pearl Harbor] because
they did not have any other choice of action,” “The Ameri-
can [Japanese] attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Pearl
Harbor] were intended to save American [Japanese] lives,”
and “The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Pearl Har-
bor] can be considered to be a patriotic act of the Ameri-
cans [Japanese] to save their country and their people.”
The three-item scales revealed good reliabilities (( = .75 for
Pearl Harbor; ( = .72 for atomic bombings).
Perceived importance of the event. Participants were asked
to rate the importance of each event in U.S. history as
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 329
well as the personal importance of the events on a six-
point scale (1 = not at all important; 6 = very import-
ant). The items read: “How important is Pearl Harbor
attack [Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings] in the
United States history?” and “How important is Pearl
Harbor attack [Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings] to
you personally?”
Emotional reactions. For each event, participants were asked
to rate the degree to which they felt each of the following
emotions when thinking about the historical event: (1) “I
feel anger toward Japan [the U.S.],” (2) “I feel sympathy to-
ward the victims of the attacks,” and (3) “I feel sympathy
toward the Japanese [Americans] in general.” All items
were measured on six-point scales ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).
3.1.4. Data Analysis
As in Study 1, repeated measures General Linear Models
(GLM) were used to analyze the data. Type of event (per-
petrator vs. victim) was entered as the within-subject fac-
tor, whereas identity centrality and in-group superiority
were entered as continuous predictors. Target group (in-
group vs. out-group) was included as an additional within-
subject factor in the analyses of emotional reactions.
Similar to the procedure in Study 1, the interaction be-
tween identity centrality and in-group superiority was en-
tered in initial models, but was later dropped as there were
no significant interaction effects. The order in which the
events were presented might also influence the construals
of these historical events, particularly because Pearl Harbor
and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are
perceived to be causally linked (i.e., Pearl Harbor might
provide justification for the atomic bombings). Therefore,
order was entered as a factor in the initial GLM analyses;
however it was excluded from the final reports as there
were no significant effects.
Following the GLM analyses, as in Study 1, regression ana-
lyses for each type of event were conducted to clarify inter-
action effects. The standardized beta coefficients from
these analyses, as well as the means and standard deviations
of all dependent variables are presented in Table 2.
Table 2: Regressions predicting construals of historical events from identity centrality and in-group superiority (means, standard deviations, and
standardized beta coefficients) (Study 2)
..
Justification
Exonerating cognitions
Anger toward:
the United States
Japan
Sympathy for:
Victims
Americans
Japanese
Historical importance
Personal importance
M
Pearl Harbor (victim event)
2.6
3.01
2.05
3.57
5.29
3.93
2.79
5.40
3.19
SD
1.28
1.13
1.28
1.53
1.06
1.26
1.44
.77
1.29
Centrality
β
-.22
-.13
.01
.44
.34
.34
-.14
.24
.34
p
.05
.27
.96
.000
.002
.002
.19
.03
.002
Superiority
β
.13
.11
-.15
-.02
-.19
.01
-.20
-.12
-.07
p
.26
.33
.19
.87
.08
.96
.06
.28
.53
M
Atomic bombings (perpetrator event)
3.11
2.91
2.75
2.62
4.94
3.07
3.54
5.07
3.13
SD
1.33
1.17
1.43
1.31
1.20
1.42
1.33
1.07
1.29
Centrality
β
.07
-.05
.03
.18
.14
.17
-.02
.11
.08
p
.50
.67
.80
.11
.17
.12
.82
.32
.46
Superiority
β
.26
.46
-.30
.06
-.46
.02
-.23
-.28
-.15
p
.02
.000
.007
.59
.000
.84
.04
.01
.17
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 330
3.2. Results and Discussion
3.2.1. Justification
The GLM analysis revealed a marginal main effect of type
of event, F (1, 101) = 3.35, p = .07, η2 = .03, such that the
perpetrator event (the atomic bombings) was rated as
more justifiable than the victim event (Pearl Harbor) (see
Table 2). There was also a marginal interaction between
type of event and centrality, F (1, 101) = 3.39, p = .07, η2
= .03. Supporting H2a, higher identity centrality pre-
dicted less justification for the Pearl Harbor attack, but
did not predict justification for the atomic bombings. Al-
though type x superiority interaction was not significant,
F (1, 101) = .88, p = .35, higher in-group superiority pre-
dicted higher justification for atomic bombings of Hiros-
hima and Nagasaki, but did not predict justification for
Pearl Harbor (supporting H1a; see Table 2). Figures 1 and
2 respectively show the effects of identity centrality and
in-group superiority on justification of Pearl Harbor and
the atomic bombings. Overall, these results replicated the
findings of Study 1.
Figure 1: The effect of identity centrality and in-group superiority on justification of the Pearl Harbor attack
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 331
3.2.2. Exonerating Cognitions
The GLM analysis yielded a main effect for type of event, F
(1, 90) = 9.17, p < .01, partial η2 = .09, which was further
qualified by a type x superiority interaction, F (1, 90) = 8.9,
p < .01, η2 = .09. As shown in Table 2, the interaction effect
revealed that higher in-group superiority predicted higher
legitimization of the perpetrator event (atomic bombing),
but was not related to legitimization of the victim event
(Pearl Harbor).
The interaction between centrality and type was not sig-
nificant, F (1, 90) = .24, p = .62, indicating that centrality
was not a significant predictor of legitimization of either
victim or perpetrator event. One explanation for the lack
of relationship between identity centrality and (lower)
legitimization of the Pearl Harbor attack might be that
exonerating cognitions are less relevant to in-group victim-
ization. Exonerating cognitions constitute legitimization
mechanisms that are activated when the in-group has com-
mitted misdeeds. Thus, there is no reason for group
members to use exonerating cognitions in instances of in-
group victimization.
3.2.3. Emotional Reactions
Anger. The repeated measures GLM revealed a marginal
effect of type, F (1, 102) = 3.53, p = .06, η2 = .03, such that
less anger was evoked by Pearl Harbor (M = 1.81, SE =
.11) than by Hiroshima and Nagasaki (M = 2.67, SE =
.10). The results also yielded a main effect of target, F (1,
102) = 11.93, p = .001, η2 = .11, such that participants re-
Figure 2: The effect of identity centrality and in-group superiority on justification of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 332
ported feeling less angry toward the in-group (M = 2.41,
SE = .11) than toward the out-group (M = 3.10, SE =
.12).
More importantly, the results yielded a target x centrality
interaction, F (1, 102) = 9.11, p < .01, η2 = .08, which was
further qualified by a three-way interaction with type, F (1,
102) = 4.41, p = .04, η2 = .04. Lending support to H2b, cen-
trality predicted more out-group anger in response to Pearl
Harbor, but did not predict out-group anger in response to
atomic bombings, or anger toward the in-group in either
event.
Target also interacted with superiority, F (1, 102) = 5.52, p
< .05, η2 = .05, such that higher in-group superiority pre-
dicted less anger toward the in-group (i.e., the United
States), but did not predict anger toward the out-group
(i.e., Japan). Although the three way interaction between
target, type and superiority did not reach significance, F (1,
102) = 2.31, p = .13, η2 = .02, superiority was a significant
predictor of in-group anger (i.e., less anger toward the
United States) for the atomic bombings, but not for Pearl
Harbor (supporting H1b; see Table 2).
Not surprisingly, these results suggest that the two dimen-
sions, identity centrality and in-group superiority, predict
anger directed toward the harm-doer, but not toward the
victim. Furthermore, identity centrality predicts experienc-
ing more anger toward the harm-doer (i.e., the out-group)
when the in-group is the victim of violence, whereas in-
group superiority predicts less anger toward the in-group
when the in-group is the harm-doer.
Sympathy. A 2 x 3 repeated measures GLM was conducted
with in-group superiority and identity centrality as con-
tinuous predictors. Type of event (victim vs. perpetrator)
and target (victims of attacks vs. in-group members vs.
out-group members) were the within-subject factors. The
dependent variable was the amount of sympathy felt to-
ward each target.1
The results yielded a main effect of target, F (2, 204) =
13.19, p < .001, η2 = .11, such that participants reported
feeling most sympathy toward the victims of attack (M =
5.11, SE = .09), then toward the in-group (M = 3.74, SE =
.11), and least toward the out-group (M = 2.93, SE = .11).
In addition, there was a significant type x target inter-
action, F (2, 204) = 16.78, p < .001, η2 = .14, which was
further qualified by three-way interactions with centrality,
F (2, 204) = 8.52, p < .001, η2 = .08, and superiority, F (2,
204) = 5.56, p < .01, η2 = .05. A decomposition of the
three-way interaction effects lent support to H1b and H2b
(see standardized regression coefficients in Table 2). In the
context of the Pearl Harbor attack, the more American
identity was central to participants’ self-concept, the more
sympathy they felt for the American victims and for
Americans in general. By contrast, in the context of Hiros-
hima and Nagasaki, the more participants viewed the in-
group as superior, the less sympathy they felt for the
victims and for the Japanese in general.
Overall, the two in-group identification dimensions, iden-
tity centrality and in-group superiority, predicted sym-
pathy for the victims of the attacks and for members of the
attacked group. As expected, identity centrality predicted
more sympathy for the victims and the victim group in
general when the in-group was the victim of attacks,
whereas in-group superiority predicted less sympathy for
the victims and the group members of the victimized
groups when the in-group was the harm-doer.
3.2.4. Importance of Historical Events
Importance of historical events for U.S. history. The GLM
analysis did not yield any significant results (F (1, 102) =
1.17, p = .28 for type; F (1, 102) = 2.69, p = .10 for type x
superiority interaction; F (1, 102) = .30, p = .58 for type x
centrality interaction). However, in support of H1c and
H2c, univariate analyses conducted for each type of event
separately indicated that identity centrality predicted
higher ratings of the importance of Pearl Harbor, whereas
1 Sympathy toward the victims of each event (Pearl
Harbor and atomic bombings), as well as the import-
ance of these events in U.S. history, were highly skewed
(see means in Table 1). Transformations of these vari-
ables did not restore normality. Thus, the variables
were dichotomized at the mean, and logistic regres-
sions were conducted with centrality and superiority
as predictors. The results of these analyses replicate the
results of linear regressions presented in Table 1.
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 333
in-group superiority predicted lower ratings of the import-
ance of the atomic bombings (see Table 2). Superiority was
not related to the importance of Pearl Harbor, whereas
centrality was not related to the importance of the atomic
bombings.
Personal importance of historical events. The GLM analysis
yielded a significant effect of type, F (1, 102) = 8.27, p < .01,
η2 = .075, such that Pearl Harbor was rated as more import-
ant (M = 3.19, SD = 1.29) than the atomic bombings (M =
3.13, SD = 1.29). There was also a significant type x cen-
trality interaction, F (1, 102) = 5.49, p = .02, η2 = .05, indi-
cating that, as expected, higher identity centrality predicted
heightened personal importance of Pearl Harbor, but not of
the atomic bombings. The type x superiority interaction
was not significant, however, F (1, 102) = .59, p = .44.
While in-group superiority did not influence the degree to
which these historical events were personally important,
the results confirm the expectation regarding identity cen-
trality: That is, participants higher in identity centrality
perceived the in-group’s historical victimization event as
more important to them.
4. General Discussion
The studies reveal initial evidence that identity centrality
and in-group superiority differentially predict historical
memories of in-group victimization and in-group harm-
doing. Specifically, in-group superiority predicted reac-
tions to historical memories of in-group harm doing (e.g.,
justification, emotional reactions, and perceived import-
ance of events), whereas identity centrality predicted reac-
tions to historical memories of in-group victimization.
The hypotheses were consistently supported in both
studies, and across the dependent variables in Study 2.
This research contributes to two areas of study in the con-
text of intergroup violence: social identity and historical
memories.
Consistent with previous studies (e.g., Leach et al. 2008;
Roccas et al. 2008) the current findings emphasize the im-
portance of using a multidimensional approach to social
identity. Recent research (e.g., Leidner et al. 2010; Roccas
et al. 2006) demonstrates that in-group glorification,
rather than attachment, drives the adverse effects of in-
group identification in intergroup conflict and violence.
However, by focusing only on the in-group’s misdeeds,
these previous findings capture only phenomena related
to one aspect of intergroup conflict. The current research
suggests that identity centrality, rather than in-group su-
periority, might drive responses to historical victimiz-
ation.
The scales previously used to assess in-group glorification
and attachment consist of items tapping deference and su-
periority dimensions (for in-group glorification), and iden-
tity centrality and commitment dimensions (for in-group
attachment). The conceptual differences between these di-
mensions might, however, produce mixed research find-
ings. For instance, Sellers et al. (2008) note the difference
between identity centrality and other affective and evalu-
ative dimensions of in-group attachment in the context of
racial identity. Overall, the current findings call for further
investigation of the role of identity centrality and other in-
group identification dimensions in intergroup conflict.
Research on the magnitude gap in interpersonal trans-
gressions suggests that both victims and perpetrators sys-
tematically, though differentially, distort memories of the
past (e.g., Baumeister et al. 1990; Baumeister and Catanese
2001). Victims’ accounts of the transgressions emphasize
the negative and lasting consequences of the harm and the
perpetrators’ responsibility, whereas perpetrators focus on
the mitigating circumstances that led them to carry the
acts and minimize the consequences of their actions on
the victims (Baumeister and Catanese 2001). At the level
of intergroup conflict, Kraft (2009) observes similar dis-
crepancies in accounts given by victims and perpetrators
to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Af-
rica. However, previous research has not assessed how in-
group identification might differentially influence these
discrepancies. The results of the present studies indicate
that different ways of relating to the in-group (i.e., dif-
ferent identity dimensions) might strengthen these sys-
tematic differences in historical memory. For instance,
in-group superiority was associated with more exonerat-
ing cognitions (i.e., the use of mitigating circumstances to
legitimize the events). However, when the in-group was
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 334
the victim, identity centrality was associated with in-
creased anger toward the perpetrator of in-group harm,
more sympathy toward in-group victims, less justification
of in-group victimization, and heightened perceived im-
portance of the events.
The present research has several limitations. First, both
studies used correlational methods. Participants completed
measures of in-group identification before they were rem-
inded of historical events, and in-group identification di-
mensions were considered predictors of construals of
historical events. However, causal direction might also be
reversed, such that the in-group’s history might play an
important role in the construction of group identity (see
the extended discussion below). A second limitation of the
present research is the use of student samples. Special char-
acteristics of the student samples (e.g., education, ideology,
age) might have influenced the observed relations. In par-
ticular, prior research on collective memories reveals strong
generational and cohort effects on remembering of collec-
tive events (e.g., Schuman and Corning 2012).
Although group histories always include both harm-doing
and victimization episodes, these types of events have typi-
cally been addressed in separate areas of research. The in-
terpretations of historical victimization and harm-doing
do not occur in a vacuum, but within the in-group’s
broader historical narrative. Often historical events of vic-
timization and perpetration are causally linked (whether
real or perceived). For instance, the Pearl Harbor attack is
often perceived to have led to the atomic bombings of Hi-
roshima and Nagasaki. Although order effects in the cur-
rent analyses were not significant, the perceived causal link
between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the
United States represents a weakness of the repeated
measures design of Study 2.
Nevertheless, the current research provides initial evidence
that different dimensions of in-group identification are
linked to different construals of the in-group’s past. Future
research should delve deeper into the nature of these re-
lations, and determine potential moderating factors that
might further explain the complex relation between group
identity and historical memory.
5. The Nature of the Relationship between Group Identity and
Historical Memories
Building on previous literature, I predicted that different
cognitive and motivational factors underpinning each
identity dimension would lead to biases in historical mem-
ories of in-group victimization and in-group harm-doing.
According to this view, the adverse effects of in-group su-
periority (or in-group identification in previous research)
are a result of a motivated defense to image threats posed
by the in-group’s misdeeds. However, there might be other
explanations for the observed results. For instance, in-
group superiority implies that group members have an in-
flated (positive) image of their group. Flattering national
images are part of the national narrative of most nations.
National narrative might be used as an in-group stereo-
type, which serves to perpetuate the glorified images of the
in-group through selection and distortion of events in
ways that confirm the stereotype (Hirshberg 1993). His-
torical events of in-group harm-doing are learned and in-
terpreted through the existing knowledge frameworks
about the in-group (i.e., in-group’s master narrative, see
Hammack 2009). Because those individuals who view the
in-group as superior to other groups are likely to endorse
flattering national images, they are also more likely to re-
interpret negative historical events in ways that fit the exist-
ing images (Bilali, forthcoming). Therefore, a schema
consistency effect is also a plausible interpretation of the
association between in-group superiority and historical
memories of in-group harm-doing.
Although the present research considered in-group identifi-
cation dimensions as antecedents of construals of historical
events, the relation between identity and historical mem-
ories is dynamic (e.g., Kurtis, Adams, and Yellow-Bird 2010).
At a collective level, historical memories form the content of
group identity (Billig 1995). Social representations of the in-
group’s history might in turn influence the degree and the
way in which individuals identify with their group (Liu and
Hilton 2005). For instance, to enhance their identity, groups
often distort the past by silencing or reinterpreting the
negative events in their history, and by embellishing and
glorifying history to portray the in-group favorably (Bau-
meister and Hastings 1997). Such glorified portrayals of the
in-group’s history might lead group members to view their
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 335
in-group as superior to other groups (i.e., leading to higher
in-group superiority). However, when the in-group’s history
is portrayed negatively, group members might disidentify
with their group to avoid negative psychological con-
sequences on the self (Liu and Hilton 2005). In contrast,
historical memories of past victimization increase group
solidarity and strengthen in-group identity (Devine-Wright
2003; Roe 2003), though they might also damage group es-
teem (Pratto and Glasford 2008). Additionally, the in-
group’s past victimization can also be used to provide moral
legitimacy to current and future aggressive ventures of the
in-group (Wohl and Branscombe 2008).
Overall, the above discussion suggests that although the de-
gree (e.g., Sahdra and Ross 2007) and nature of in-group
identification might lead to biases in historical memories
(as shown by the present research), the characteristics and
uses of historical memories might also influence how indi-
viduals relate to their groups (i.e., identity dimensions).
Future research should further investigate this dynamic re-
lationship. Longitudinal studies would be best suited to as-
sessing how identification with the in-group influences
construals of historical events, and in turn, how changes in
the collective/social representations of the nation’s history
influence in-group identification.
6. Conclusion
The present research has important implications for the
study of conflict and violence. Theoretically, the findings
shed light on the psychological underpinnings of reac-
tions toward historical victimization and harm-doing.
Construals of historical events of perpetration and vic-
timization are extremely important as they might either
exacerbate conflicts or facilitate reconciliation. Thus, a
better understanding of the psychological factors that
contribute to construals of victim and perpetrator events
is important in informing strategies to address the
underlying motivations and needs arising from these
events. Furthermore, the current research shifts the focus
from the study of victim and perpetrator groups, to stu-
dying events in which a group has either perpetrated or
experienced harm. This is important considering the cyc-
lical nature of most violent conflicts. Often, establishing
one group as a victim or a perpetrator is contentious, as
even groups that have perpetrated mass violence and
genocide might perceive themselves as victims (Bilali et
al. 2012). The current research points to the benefits of
integrating the two areas of research (i.e., on victim
groups and perpetrator groups) to reach a better under-
standing of the dynamics underlying intergroup violence
and conflict.
IJCV : Vol. 6 (2) 2012, pp. 322 – 338
Bilali: Identity Centrality, Superiority, and Historical Memories 336
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Rezarta Bilali
rezarta.bilali@umb.edu
... Higher identity centrality is associated with heightened feelings of discrimination and victimization (Major, Quinton, & Schmader, 2003;Thomsen et al., 2010). Some research suggests that identity centrality might be more predictive than ingroup glorification of reactions to ingroup victimization events (e.g., Bilali, 2012;Iqbal & Bilali, 2018a). For instance, among American participants, Bilali (2012) showed that ingroup superiority was associated with more legitimizing construals of the ingroup violence when participants read about the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (perpetrator event), whereas identity centrality was associated with less legitimizing construals and heightened perceived importance of the events when they read about the Pearl Harbor attack (victim event) (Bilali, 2012). ...
... Some research suggests that identity centrality might be more predictive than ingroup glorification of reactions to ingroup victimization events (e.g., Bilali, 2012;Iqbal & Bilali, 2018a). For instance, among American participants, Bilali (2012) showed that ingroup superiority was associated with more legitimizing construals of the ingroup violence when participants read about the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (perpetrator event), whereas identity centrality was associated with less legitimizing construals and heightened perceived importance of the events when they read about the Pearl Harbor attack (victim event) (Bilali, 2012). ...
... Some research suggests that identity centrality might be more predictive than ingroup glorification of reactions to ingroup victimization events (e.g., Bilali, 2012;Iqbal & Bilali, 2018a). For instance, among American participants, Bilali (2012) showed that ingroup superiority was associated with more legitimizing construals of the ingroup violence when participants read about the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (perpetrator event), whereas identity centrality was associated with less legitimizing construals and heightened perceived importance of the events when they read about the Pearl Harbor attack (victim event) (Bilali, 2012). ...
... However, Castano and Giner-Sorolla (2006) argued that collective guilt is rare in practice, in part because people employ defensive strategies to protect their positive social identity. A solid empirical background demonstrates that, instead of recognizing the immorality of the deed and feeling guilt in the name of the group, individuals faced with an in-group's historical transgressions turn to various group-enhancing cognitions in trying to legitimize or silence these past atrocities (e.g., Bilali, 2012;Marques et al., 2006;Peetz et al., 2010). ...
... Glorification is perceiving the in-group as better than other groups (superiority) and submitting to group symbols and leaders (deference), while attachment builds on seeing the group as a significant part of selfdefinition (importance) and aspiring to contribute to its welfare (commitment; Roccas et al., 2008). Following Roccas et al.'s (2008) further differentiation of attachment and glorification, Bilali (2012) indicated that ingroup superiority as an evaluative component of glorification and in-group importance as a cognitive-affective component of attachment are the most relevant aspects of social identification in coping with historical transgressions. Therefore, people who base their social identification exclusively on the superiority of the in-group over out-groups should be especially motivated to protect such a glorified group image, dismissing any criticism. ...
... Therefore, people who base their social identification exclusively on the superiority of the in-group over out-groups should be especially motivated to protect such a glorified group image, dismissing any criticism. On the other hand, those basing their social identification exclusively on the importance of the in-group in their self-definition are deemed as critically attached, and therefore should be more open to questioning the group's past deeds (Bilali, 2012;Roccas et al., 2004Roccas et al., , 2006. That is why we aimed to test if these different modes and levels of social identification would moderate people's defensive responses to historical transgression by the in-group's heroes and villains. ...
Article
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In two post-conflict societies (Serbia and Cyprus), the authors investigated how people cope with in-group historical transgression when heroes and villains relevant for their collective identity are made salient in it. The authors set the events in foundational periods for Serbian (Experiment 1) and Greek Cypriot (Experiment 2) ethnic identity-that is, historical representations of the Battle of Kosovo (1389) and the Liberation Struggle (1955-1959), respectively. In both experiments, a between-subjects design was used to manipulate group membership (in-group or out-group) and representation of the salient character (hero, villain, or neutral) in fictitious but historically plausible accounts of transgressions. In Experiment 1 (N = 225), the participants showed more moral disengagement in the case of in-group historical transgressions than in the case of identical transgressions by an out-group, while the in-group hero was rejected less than all the other historical characters. Social identification based on in-group superiority moderated both observed effects in such a manner that they were more pronounced for participants perceiving their ethnic group as superior. In Experiment 2 (N = 136), historical transgression involving the in-group hero provoked the most moral disengagement and the least rejection of the group deviant. In-group superiority and in-group importance as distinct modes of social identification moderated these effects in such a way that they were more pronounced for high-identifying individuals. Taken together, the experiments show that the in-group hero, as a highly valued ethnic symbol, is exempt from the black sheep effect and the sanctions of critically attached group members. The authors discuss the implications of in-group heroes for political and educational communication.
... Although the conflict environment in Turkey and relationships with minorities have thoroughly been examined in different branches of social sciences, this topic has not been studied with ethnic Armenians in Turkey, and there are only a few studies including Kurds and Turks in terms of intergroup forgiveness in psychological research (e.g., Baysu & Duman, 2016;Baysu & Coşkan, 2018;Bilali, 2012;Bocheńska, 2018). This dissertation examines intergroup conflict and forgiveness between majority group Turks and two different minority groups: Armenians and Kurds. ...
... In order to consolidate their identity, groups either claim themselves as victims, or they tend to remain silent (Bilali, 2012 Consequently, intergroup contact is widely accepted to decrease prejudice towards minority members among majority members (e.g., Pettigrew & Tropp, 2011). ...
Thesis
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The concept of intergroup forgiveness has recently been put forward mainly to understand emerging conflicts coming from the past and to and understand and examine the bases of reconciliation. The primary aim of this study is to examine the roots of intergroup forgiveness in Turkey. Within this context, in the present study, willingness to forgive outgroups is investigated –for Turks as ethnic majority group and Armenians and Kurds as the minority groups. First, a series of in-depth interviews with people from the three groups mentioned above are conducted to understand the ideas of different group members in terms of forgiving the outgroups with whom they conflict. Secondly, the willingness to forgive the outgroups and their possible antecedents are examined from a quantitative approach. In this correlational study, where willingness to forgive outgroups is the outcome variable, ethnic glorification is the predictor variable, the contempt, and defense of ingroup historical narratives (Firmly Entrenched Narrative ClosurE, FENCE) are mediators, and intergroup contact and the strength of ethnic identity are control variables. The proposed model is tested for Armenians and Turks, as well as Kurds and Turks.
... According to Cichocka (2016), glorification reflects an insecure type of in-group positivity (i.e., collective narcissism), which triggers hypersensitivity to threats and defensive reactions aimed at protecting the in-group. Indeed, considerable research has shown that glorification is associated with the use of in-group-defensive strategies (e.g., moral disengagement, dehumanization of out-group perpetrators) in response to in-group-committed violence (Bilali, 2012;Leidner & Castano, 2012;Leidner et al., 2010;Roccas et al., 2006) and in-group-suffered violence (Li et al., 2018). Pertinent to the current analysis, when reminded of the ingroup's engagement in a historical interstate war, individuals who strongly glorified their national in-group developed a heightened sense of intergroup threat, which generalized to out-groups that were unrelated to the original war (Li et al., 2016). ...
Article
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Collective memories of trauma can have profound impact on the affected individuals and communities. In the context of intergroup conflict, in the present article, we propose a novel theoretical framework to understand the long-term impact of historical trauma on contemporary intergroup relations from both victim and perpetrator perspectives. Integrating past research on intergroup conflict and the biopsychosocial model of threat and challenge, we argue that people appraise their group’s past victimization and perpetration differently, either as a threat or as a challenge. Shaped by contextual factors and individual differences, these differential appraisals will subsequently influence how group members respond to contemporary intergroup conflict, with both adaptive and maladaptive consequences. This model contributes to unifying the previous research that has shown diverse effects of historical trauma on present-day intergroup dynamics. We present preliminary empirical evidence in support of the framework and discuss its theoretical and practical implications.
... It is, however, possible that ingroup identification may predict higher resentment among victim groups of unacknowledged genocide and trauma, which in turn would predict less forgiveness and lower willingness to reconcile. This is because people who are more strongly attached to their groups (i.e., high identifiers) may be more sensitive to the ingroup's victimization (e.g., Bilali, 2012) and more likely to carry resentment due to the unacknowledged collective trauma. ...
Article
Groups in conflict often resist efforts toward reconciliation with the outgroups. Despite the growing research examining processes underlying support for reconciliation, we know little about how resentment might drive members of victim groups that have experienced violence and atrocities to oppose reconciliation and reduce their willingness to forgive the perpetrator group. Using the context of the Turkish‐Armenian conflict, the present research investigated the association of ingroup identification, ingroup glorification, and resentment with willingness to reconcile and forgive among Armenians in their homeland context (Armenia; Study 1) and Armenian‐Americans in the hostland context (the U.S.; Study 2). In Study 1, stronger Armenian identification and Armenian glorification predicted more resentment toward the Turks, which, in turn predicted less forgiveness and less support for reconciliation. Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1 regarding the associations of ingroup glorification but not ingroup identification. However, Study 2 also demonstrated that identification with diaspora identity (i.e., American identity) predicted positive intergroup outcomes. Results point to the important relationship between different modes of identification both in the homeland and hostland countries and intergroup‐related outcomes through resentment, and to the obstacles to reconciliation and forgiveness among victim groups of unacknowledged past trauma and genocide.
... The French and Dutch-speaking identities, which were partly shaped by the experience of war, often reflect radically different realities, whether at the political viii , cultural or memory level (Billiet, Maddens, & Frognier, 2006 (Branscombe & Doosje, 2004). In order to support a favorable view of the ingroup, they then tend to modify the group's narrative with regards to its culpability in past atrocities (Bilali, 2012;Sahdra & Ross, 2007). Hirschberger and colleagues (2016) -which called this process "defensive representations of history" -underline that, in order to reduce guilt and shame, group members might attribute their past behavior to external sources or even portray themselves as victims (for instance, of a postwar purge). ...
Article
Full-text available
The present study addresses antecedents and consequences of attitudes towards collaboration in the context of World War II (WWII) in Belgium. A survey conducted on 922 Belgian French‐ and Dutch‐ speaking participants shows that, on overall, Dutch‐speakers perceive collaboration as more moral and support amnesty of the former collaborators at a higher level than their Francophone counterparts. In addition, we show that these attitudes are predicted by the generational belonging, linguistic and national identification of the participants. Finally, we find that attitudes towards WWII collaboration are linked to specific political prospects for the future of the country only among Dutch‐speakers. These findings suggest that, 75 years after its end, the issue of collaboration during WWII still divides the Belgian society. Furthermore, they underline the added value of a multi‐level approach in the understanding of social psychological phenomena.
... Beyond the degree of attachment to the in-group, the content of in-group identity is also important. Several studies (Bilali, 2012;Leidner et al., 2010;Roccas et al., 2006) have demonstrated that the degree of in-group glorification, rather than the strength of in-group identification, drives moral disengagement. Across three studies in the United States and the United Kingdom, participants read reports of mistreatment of civilians by American and British troops in the Iraq war. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Denial of genocide and other forms of mass violence is the most common response to confrontation with in-group atrocities. Denial is detrimental to peace, reconciliation, and justice. In this chapter the authors provide a social psychological analysis of genocide denial and review the nature of denial as well as the collective (e.g., group and conflict narratives) and individual-level (e.g., in-group identification, ideology) processes that perpetuate it. Then, the second part of the chapter provides an overview of strategies to address and counteract denial of atrocities. These include confrontational strategies (specifically, introducing factual information about the atrocity, introducing information about moral exemplars, and perspective-taking/engaging with out-group’s narrative) and nonconfrontational strategies (interventions targeting genocide construal in general, lay theory interventions, and affirmation strategies). The authors discuss the potential and possible drawbacks of each strategy to effectively reduce denial and discuss avenues for future research.
... Bowman and Felix (2017) recently proposed the construct of student identity centrality, which indicates how important being a student is for defining oneself. Like other researchers who have explored identity centrality (Bilali 2012;Das et al. 2008;Guillen and Korotov 2011;Settles 2004;Settles et al. 2009), these authors adapted the identity subscale of Luhtanen and Crocker's (1992) collective self-esteem scale to explore a particular type of identity centrality. They posited that student identity centrality should promote commitment to the goal of persisting in college, since being a college student involves living out a key aspect of one's identity, whereas dropping out would involve losing that important part of oneself. ...
Article
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This paper examines the recently developed construct of student identity centrality, which describes the importance of being a student to a person’s sense of self. The present study uses multiple college student surveys and institutional data to expand upon initial work in several ways. First, it shows that this construct is measured reliably using a single three-item scale. Second, it employs measurement invariance analyses, which indicate that this scale is valid for examining and comparing different groups of students. Third, it provides evidence for convergent and divergent validity through exploring relationships between student identity centrality and relevant psychological and experiential constructs. Fourth, even when controlling for demographics, prior academic achievement, stereotype threat, and grit, it finds that student identity is positively and significantly associated with college credits earned; grades in science, technology, engineering and mathematics coursework; academic confidence; college sense of belonging; and subjective well-being. Implications for future research, assessment, and higher education practice are discussed.
... For instance, high identity centrality has been associated with a stronger sense of perceived in-group discrimination (e.g., Major, Quinton, & Schmader, 2003) and victimization (e.g., Thomsen et al., 2010). Bilali (2012) argued that identity centrality is sensitive to experiences in which the ingroup's wellbeing or sense of self are threatened. Therefore, identity centrality is especially likely to elicit reactions to in-group victimization events. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined interest in justice and preferences for retributive and restorative justice among educated Bangladeshi youth (N = 652) in the unique context of the 1971 war and collective violence through which Bangladesh gained its independence. Specifically, we assessed the impact of two family-level factors (the extent of family victimization and discussion about the war), and the role of identity centrality and in-group superiority in predicting youth’s interest in seeking justice and preferences for retributive and restorative justice. Results showed that identity centrality, but not in-group superiority, predicted interest in justice and preference for restorative justice. The level of family victimization and discussions at home predicted higher interest in justice processes and higher preference for retributive justice.
Chapter
In a comparative study of Pacific Northwest Native Americans (or American Indians) attempting to regain some semblance of their former lands and resources, anthropologist Kenneth Tollefson argued that: land, or some other form of a tangible estate which includes water, property, and other natural resources, is indispensable to the economic and social well-being of tribal people … Dislocated tribal people generally seek some tangible estate in order to maintain their common fund and their system of values (Tollefson etal., 1996, p. 321)
Chapter
The past decade has seen a flowering of interest in the topics of memory and history both within academia and outside (Olick and Robbins, 1998). In parallel, there has been a heightened awareness of the link between processes of remembering and issues of ethnic conflict, reconciliation and conflict resolution, perhaps best exemplified by the actions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (Asmal etal., 1996). This chapter reviews recent scholarship on the subject of remembering and forgetting, emphasizing recent attempts to make the concept more social as well as the diverse ways in which researchers from different academic disciplines have approached the subject. I would argue that the study of social aspects of remembering is not yet a coherent field of study in which research is integrated across disciplinary boundaries. For this reason I have chosen to structure this review according to academic discipline, with a final summary of common themes that have relevance to issues of ethnic conflict.
Article
The magnitude gap refers to the consistent differences in recall between victims and perpetrators (Baumeister, Stillwell, and Wotman, 1990). Victims recall a series of provocations leading up to an incident as well as the consequences afterwards, whereas perpetrators recall an incident as bracketed in time, omitting previous provocations and later consequences. Victims omit situational influences and recall more emotion, whereas perpetrators recall incidents as resulting from situational factors, often with the victim overreacting. This chapter introduces new research on the magnitude gap in free recall, with a focus on metamemory. In free recall, victim accounts were almost 20% longer than perpetrator accounts, showing significantly more description of the aftermath, more remembered conversation, and more quantitative detail, whereas perpetrators' accounts included more justification for their behavior. The metamemory analysis revealed that time was experienced as slowing down in a majority of victim incidents but that there was no reported change in experienced time with a majority of perpetrator incidents, though nearly one-third of the perpetrator incidents led to the experience of time moving more quickly. In addition, with victim incidents the most frequently reported reason for retrieval was that these incidents still generated emotion. This chapter applies the experimental findings on the magnitude gap to truth commissions, where victims and perpetrators confront each other with discrepant accounts of the same events. The chapter focuses on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as an exemplar for the twenty-eight national truth commissions conducted to date. During the TRC, victims of apartheid recalled events to document the crimes committed against them and to seek reparations, whereas perpetrators recalled events to detail the crimes they committed during apartheid and to obtain amnesty. Consistent with the experimental literature, the TRC hearings revealed dramatic and predictable discrepancies between the memories of perpetrators and victims. Perpetrators bracketed their criminal incidents within narrow time frames and in the context of doing their jobs; victims recalled the incidents as an extended series of events that continued to generate emotion. Moreover, many victims did not believe the discrepancies between their own personal memories and those of the perpetrators, and they went on record stating that the perpetrators failed to disclose fully, potentially denying them amnesty. Research on the magnitude gap can help explain the profound differences in recall between victims and perpetrators during truth commissions, ultimately contributing to the overall effectiveness of these commissions.
Article
This study elaborated upon Sibley, Robertson, and Kirkwood's (2005) recently proposed model predicting individual differences in Pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent) support/opposition for the symbolic and resource-specific aspects of bicultural policy. The theory integrates research on the function of historical representations and collective guilt for historical injustices within the context of Duckitt's (2001) model of the dual motivational and cognitive processes underlying prejudice, and argues that the refutation of responsibility for historical injustices functions as a legitimizing myth justifying social inequality between Maori and Pakeha. Consistent with Duckitt (2001), structural equation modeling indicated that social conformity predicted dangerous world beliefs, which in turn predicted Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), whereas tough-mindedness predicted competitive world beliefs, which in turn predicted Social Dominance Orientation (SDO). SDO in turn predicted decreased levels of support for different aspects of bicultural policy, and as hypothesized, these effects were mediated by the refutation of responsibility for historical injustices. These findings provide further insight into the ideological attitudes thought to motivate (in this case SDO), and the justifications thought to legitimize (in this case the refutation of historical responsibility) expressions of opposition toward different aspects of bicultural policy in the New Zealand socio-political environment. The utility of this theoretical framework for assessing both the processes underlying, and the content of, socially elaborated discourses legitimizing discriminatory attitudes in other domains and across other cultural contexts is discussed.
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This chapter examines the thesis that intergroup conflict may incite needs that can be met through intergroup reconciliation. In particular, it reviews research that suggests three needs that are particularly salient during intergroup conflict - the need for self-esteem, the need to belong, and the need for self-integrity - can also be fulfilled through intergroup reconciliation. In other words, intergroup conflict may motivate socialpsychological needs that can be conducive to intergroup reconciliation.
Conference Paper
The processes involved in well-being maintenance among African Americans who differed in their attributions to prejudice were examined. A rejection-identification model was proposed where stable attributions to prejudice represent rejection by the dominant group. This results in a direct and negative effect on well-being. The model also predicts a positive effect on well-being that is mediated by minority group identification. In other words, the generally negative consequences of perceiving oneself as a victim of racial prejudice can be somewhat alleviated by identification with the minority group. Structural equation analyses provided support for the model and ruled out alternative theoretical possibilities. Perceiving prejudice as pervasive produces effects on well-being that are fundamentally different from those that may arise from an unstable attribution to prejudice for a single negative outcome.