Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Joshua Gubler -- When Humanizing the Enemy Fails: The Role of Dissonance and Justification in Intergroup Conflict

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

"When Humanizing the Enemy Fails: The Role of Dissonance and Justification in Intergroup Conflict," with Joshua Gubler, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University.

To "humanize'' members of the outgroup is often considered the first step towards intergroup reconciliation and peace. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that for some individuals, outgroup humanization does not have any effect. This evidence raises two key questions: 1) what are the characteristics of those individuals for whom the outgroup humanization process fails? and 2) why does it fail for these individuals? This article presents a theory that answers these questions, suggesting that the outgroup humanization process will fail for individuals who A) feel dissonance from the humanization process, and B) naturally reduce dissonance by justifying it away. I present results from an original experiment conducted on a nationally diverse sample of Jewish-Israelis that shows that individuals with the strongest "Ingroup-Centric Beliefs" (ICBs), those traditionally the targets of conflict resolution attempts, are precisely the individuals most likely to experience dissonance from humanization treatments. Disturbingly, the results suggest that for the subset of these individuals who deal with dissonance by justifying it away, outgroup humanization fails to produce the positive attitudinal change we would expect. In fact, for these individuals, humanizing the enemy might indeed spur greater aggression towards the outgroup---motivating them to hold more tightly to their negative beliefs and emotions.

Location: McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.