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Intergroup emotional similarity reduces dehumanization and promotes conciliatory attitudes in prolonged conflict

Authors:
  • Reichman University

Abstract

Creating a sense of interpersonal similarity of attitudes and values is associated with increased attraction and liking. Applying these findings in an intergroup setting, though, has yielded mixed support. Theorizing from a social identity perspective suggests that highlighting intergroup similarity may lead to increased antipathy to the extent that it is perceived as a threat to one’s unique social identity. To circumvent this process, we examine the influence of emotional similarity, rather than attitudinal or value similarity, with the expectation that the short-term nature of emotions may evoke less threat to one’s social identity. Moreover, given the importance of emotions in intergroup humanization processes, we expected that emotional similarity would be associated with greater conciliatory attitudes due to an increase in humanization of the outgroup. We report results from two studies supporting these predictions. Following exposure to an anger-eliciting news story, Jewish Israeli participants were given information that their own emotional reaction to the story was similar (or not) to an individual member of the outgroup (Study 1: Palestinian citizen of Israel) or the outgroup as a whole (Study 2: Palestinians of the West Bank). As predicted, emotional similarity was associated with increased humanization of the outgroup, and a subsequent increase in one’s willingness to support conciliatory political policies toward the outgroup. We conclude that emotional similarity may be a productive avenue for future intergroup interventions, particularly between groups where differences in attitudes and values are foundational to the intergroup conflict.
... Therefore, social identification (i.e., the extent to which a certain group is included in one's self-representation; Tropp & Wright, 2001) is not necessary to have emotional fit with a target. For example, Jewish Israelis would be able to perceive that they are experiencing similar emotions to Palestinians in response to a certain event, even though their identities do not overlap (McDonald et al., 2017). Thus, perceived emotional fit is orthogonal to group-based emotions (i.e., emotions as a result of one's identification with a group; Smith & Mackie, 2015) as one can perceive emotional fit with those with whom one does not relate, and group-based emotions may occur without perceptions of sharedness with other group members (Smith & Mackie, 2015). ...
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Psychological processes that hamper activism, such as activist burnout, threaten social change. We suggest that perceived emotional fit (i.e., perceiving to experience similar emotions as other disadvantaged group members) may buffer activist burnout by mitigating the deleterious effects of stressors that are associated with partaking in collective action. We investigated the relation between perceived emotional fit and activist burnout using three-wave longitudinal survey data of Palestinians in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We hypothesized that both higher general tendencies to fit emotionally with the ingroup (general perceived emotional fit) and increases over time in perceived emotional fit (change perceived emotional fit) would relate negatively to activist burnout. Supporting our hypotheses, both aspects of emotional fit were associated with lower activist burnout, even when controlling for classical predictors of collective action. This research highlights perceived emotional fit as an additional dimension to the role of emotions for sustainable collective action.
... This need to be with others to feel like ourselves creates a related needto feel that we are experiencing the same emotional reaction as others. It is this emotional group identity which appears to have the longest lasting effect and therefore the potential to create the most benefit for participants' wellbeing (Páez et al., 2015;McDonald et al., 2017). Studies have already shown the benefits of mirroring and physical synchrony for wellbeing and cognitive performance in older people (Keisari et al., 2020) but few have studied emotional synchrony in this age group. ...
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... In line with the basic tenets of the common ingroup identity model (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2000), making a common superordinate category salient allows to perceive ingroup and outgroup individuals as members of the same group, and therefore to assign similar levels of humanity to the groups (Leyens et al., 2007). In their work, McDonald et al. (2015) focused on emotional similarity between groups, which may act as an antecedent of common ingroup identity (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2000). In two experimental studies conducted in Israel, they informed Jewish Israeli participants that their emotional reaction to an angereliciting story was similar to that shown by Palestinian citizens of Israel (Study 1) or Palestinians of the West Bank (Study 2). ...
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... Focusing on this national level, in accordance with its relationship to the individual level, could prove more valuable than investigating either independently. Additionally, since recent research suggests that dehumanization of victims is associated with increased instrumental violence, but not moral violence (Rai et al., 2017), it is important to keep in mind that humanization interventions, such as emphasizing the emotions of outgroups (McDonald et al., 2017), might prove to be less effective for mitigating violent conflicts that are morally motivated. ...
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Past research finds contradictory evidence suggesting that religion both reduces and increases violent conflict. We argue that morality is an important hub mechanism that can help us understand this disputed relationship. Moreover, to reconcile this, as well as the factors underlying religion's impact on increased violence (i.e., belief versus practice), we draw on Virtuous Violence Theory and newly synthesize it with research on both moral cognition and social identity. We suggest that the combined effect of moral cognition and social identity may substantially increase violence beyond what either facilitates alone. We test our claims using multilevel analysis of data from the World Values Survey and find a nuanced effect of religion on people's beliefs about violence. Specifically, religious individuals were less likely to condone violence while religious countries were more likely to. This combination of theoretical and empirical work helps disentangle the interwoven nature of morality, religion, and violence.
... Furthermore, studies have shown that having even just one individual member of an out-group share the in-group's anger, results in the in-group seeing the out-group as potential allies. This in turn correlates with in-group support for non-retrubitive actions towards the outgroup (see McDonald et al., 2017). This highlights the crucial effect of recruiting allies under conditions of social injustice. ...
Chapter
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Anger is often an appropriate reaction to harms and injustices, but is it a politically beneficial one? Martha Nussbaum (Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (1), 41–56, 2015, Anger and Forgiveness. Oxford University Press, 2016) has argued that, although anger is useful in initially recruiting agents for action, anger is typically counterproductive to securing the political aims of those harmed. After the initial shockwave of outrage, Nussbaum argues that to be effective at enacting positive social change, groups and individuals alike, must move quickly out of the state of anger. Feminist theorists (Frye, The Politics of Reality. Crossing Press, 1983; Lorde, 1997; Narayan, Hypatia 3 (2): 31–48, 1988) on the other hand have for long highlighted the efficacy of anger, as well as its moral and epistemic value, in fighting against the oppressive status quo. It might be thought therefore that for political action to be effective, a continued state of anger is preferable. Protestors must after all create and sustain a sense of moral obligation and justice. A main way of doing so is to promote successive moral shocks that trigger outrage (Jasper, Emotion Review 6 (3): 208–213, 2014). I present a novel, empirically informed defense of anger’s efficacy in political action. Nussbaum holds a traditional view on the nature of anger, inherited from Aristotle and the Stoics, which holds that anger constitutively involves a desire for retribution. The view that anger is counterproductive falls out of this and is dominant in academic work as well as in our personal and political lives. Based on work in social psychology, I argue that we need to reconsider this. In doing so, I highlight anger’s aim for recognition, rather than retribution, as key. Furthermore, I uncover conditions for anger’s political efficacy, as well as reasons for why the traditional view of anger has been so pervasive.
... Our studies point to greater dissimilarity perceptions among individuals who are naturally more pathogen-averse (i.e., easily disgusted). Lower similarity perceptions are linked with negative attitudes toward different groups, even to the point of dehumanization (Greenhalgh & Watt, 2014;McDonald et al., 2017;Miranda, Gouveia-Pereira, & Vaes, 2014). Thus, lower perceived similarity could partially explain why highly disgust-sensitive individuals tend to exhibit stronger opposition toward social groups such as gays, older adults, obese people, and those who suffer from physical disabilities (Duncan & Schaller, 2009;Inbar, Pizarro, Knobe, & Bloom, 2009;Park et al., 2003;Park et al., 2007). ...
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... The interventions were either fielded by a programmatic agency or were designed so that they could be fielded in that manner. Applying this criterion led us to exclude studies, such as McDonald et al. (2015), for which the experimental treatment relied fundamentally on a laboratory manipulation. Methodologically, we accepted studies For the "Findings" columns, the "+" marker indicates that findings were clearly in the direction of promoting peace, "-" indicates that findings in the direction of being contrary to promoting peace, "ß" indicates mixed results, and "." indicates no clear findings. ...
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