Applied Research

One of our guiding principles is research-based activity. We rely on cutting-edge research conducted both in Israel and internationally, to develop our practical knowledge and tools. In addition, we employ the highest standards of impact evaluation to assess the effectiveness of our work with our partners. Through this, we also aim to promote professional, data-driven activity by the various organizations in the field.

Here are some of our studies that deal with psychological interventions to promote intergroup relationships


Malleability Beliefs

Making Intergroup Contact More Fruitful

For decades, increasing intergroup contact has been the preferred method for improving cooperation between groups. However, even proponents of this approach acknowledge that intergroup contact may not be effective in the context of intractable conflicts. One question is whether anything can be done to increase the impact of intergroup contact on cooperation. In the present study, we tested whether changing perceptions of group malleability in a pre-encounter intervention could increase the degree of cooperation during contact encounters. Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli adolescents (N = 141) were randomly assigned either to a condition that taught that groups are malleable or to a coping, control condition. During a subsequent intergroup encounter, we used two behavioral tasks to estimate the levels of cooperation. Results indicated that relative to the control condition, participants in the group malleability condition showed enhanced cooperation. These findings suggest new avenues for enhancing the impact of contact in the context of intractable conflicts.

Read More

Group Malleability, Intergroup Anxiety, and Contact Motivation

Intergroup contact plays a crucial role in moderating long-term conflicts. Unfortunately, the motivation to make contact with outgroup members is usually very low in such conflicts. We hypothesized that one limiting factor is the belief that groups cannot change, which leads to increased intergroup anxiety and decreased contact motivation. To test this hypothesis, we experimentally manipulated beliefs about group malleability in the context of the conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and then assessed intergroup anxiety and motivation to engage in intergroup contact. Turkish Cypriots who were led to believe that groups can change (with no mention of the specific groups involved) reported lower levels of intergroup anxiety and higher motivation to interact and communicate with Greek Cypriots in the future, compared with those who were led to believe that groups cannot change. This effect of group malleability manipulation on contact motivation was mediated by intergroup anxiety.

Read More

Hope In the Middle East

The importance of hope has long been asserted in the field of conflict resolution. However, little is actually known about either how to induce hope or what effects hope has on conciliatory attitudes. In the current research, we tested whether (1) hope is based upon beliefs regarding conflict malleability and (2) hope predicts support for concessions for peace. Study 1, a correlational study conducted among Israeli Jews, revealed that malleability beliefs regarding conflicts in general are associated with hope regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict as well as with support for concessions. In Study 2, we established causality using an experimental manipulation of beliefs regarding conflicts being malleable (vs. fixed). Findings have both theoretical and practical implications regarding inducing hope in intractable conflicts, thus promoting the attitudes so critical for peacemaking.

Read More

Immoral Groups' Perceived Malleability Affects Collective Action

Although negative out-group beliefs typically foster individuals’ motivation for collective action, we propose that such beliefs may diminish this motivation when people believe that this out-group cannot change in its very essence. Specifically, we tested the idea that believing in the malleability of immoral out groups (i.e., targets of collective action) should increase collective action tendencies through group efficacy beliefs. Study 1 revealed that the more strongly participants believed that immoral out-groups could change as a function of contextual influences, the stronger their collective action tendencies were due to increased group efficacy. In Study 2, we experimentally replicated these findings using a manipulation of individuals’ beliefs about immoral out-groups being potentially malleable (vs. fixed). We discuss implications of our findings with an eye on the literature on collective action and implicit beliefs and on the promotion of civic engagement more broadly.

Read More

Implicit Theories Block Negative Attributions of Adversaries

Attributing the negative behavior of an adversary to underlying dispositions inflames negative attitudes. In two studies, by manipulating both implicit theories and attributions, we show that the negative impact of dispositional attributions can be reduced. Both studies showed that inducing an incremental theory (“traits are malleable”) in Israelis kept negative attitudes toward Arabs low (Study1), and political tolerance and willingness to compromise for peace high (Study 2), even when people were oriented toward dispositional attributions. Thus an incremental theory blocked the negative effect of dispositional attributions. Inducing an entity theory (“traits are fixed”) had a negative effect on attitudes, tolerance, and compromise when dispositional attributions were salient but not when situational attributions were made salient. These findings have important implications for promoting intergroup relations and conflict resolution.

Read More

Intergroup Contact Can Undermine Attributions to Discrimination

In the current research, we investigated social settings through which attributions to discrimination are undermined. Drawing on work linking intergroup contact to perceptions of inequality, we tested the prediction that experiences of commonality-focused contact would reduce disadvantaged group members' tendency to attribute negative treatment of fellow group members to discrimination. In Study 1, students were randomly assigned to either a commonality-focused, differences-focused, or no-contact condition, ostensibly with a student from a higher status university. Commonality-focused interactions led participants to view the status hierarchy as more legitimate, and consequently, to be less likely to attribute negative treatment to discrimination. In Study 2, this effect was replicated among Ethiopian-Jews (a disadvantaged minority in Israel) who reported the amount of commonality-focused contact they experience with non-Ethiopian Jews. Theoretical and practical implications regarding intergroup contact and perceptions of inequality are discussed.

Read More

Normative vs. Non-Normative Action: Role of Implicit Theories

The current research investigates what motivates people to engage in normative versus nonnormative action. Prior research has shown that different emotions lead to different types of action. We argue that these differing emotions are determined by a more basic characteristic, namely, implicit theories about whether groups and the world in general can change. We hypothesized that incremental theories (beliefs that groups/the world can change) would predict normative action, and entity theories (beliefs that groups/the world cannot change) as well as group identification would predict nonnormative action. We conducted a pilot in the context of protests against a government plan to relocate Bedouin villages in Israel and a main study during the Israeli social protests of the middle class. Results revealed three distinct pathways to collective action. First, incremental theories about the world predicted hope, which predicted normative action. Second, incremental theories about groups and group identification predicted anger, which also predicted normative collective action. Lastly, entity theories about groups predicted nonnormative collective action through hatred, but only for participants who were highly identified with the group. In sum, people who believed in the possibility of change supported normative action, whereas those who believed change was not possible supported nonnormative action.

Read More

Perceptions of Changing World Induce Hope and Peace in Conflicts

The importance of hope in promoting conciliatory attitudes has been asserted in the field of conflict resolution. However, little is known about conditions inducing hope, especially in intractable conflicts, where reference to the outgroup may backfire. In the current research, five studies yielded convergent support for the hypothesis that hope for peace stems from a general perception of the world as changing. In Study 1, coders observed associations between belief in a changing world, hope regarding peace, and support for concessions. Study 2 revealed the hypothesized relations using self-reported measures. Studies 3 and 4 established causality by instilling a perception of the world as changing (vs. unchanging) using narrative and drawing manipulations. Study 5 compared the changing world message with a control condition during conflict escalation. Across studies, although the specific context was not referred to, the belief in a changing world increased support for concessions through hope for peace.

Read More

Promoting Peace By Changing Beliefs About Group Malleability

Four studies showed that beliefs about whether groups have a malleable versus fixed nature affected intergroup attitudes and willingness to compromise for peace. Using a nationwide sample (N = 500) of Israeli Jews, the first study showed that a belief that groups were malleable predicted positive attitudes toward Palestinians, which in turn predicted willingness to compromise. In the remaining three studies, experimentally inducing malleable versus fixed beliefs about groups among Israeli Jews (N = 76), Palestinian citizens of Israel (N = 59), and Palestinians in the West Bank (N = 53)—without mentioning the adversary—led to more positive attitudes toward the outgroup and, in turn, increased willingness to compromise for peace.

Read More

Contact Interventions

Discussing Group Differences: Content of Intergroup Encounters

Recent research highlighted that intergroup contact can inadvertently undermine social change. However, relatively little work had linked experiences of contact to motivation for social change among advantaged groups. We develop the hypothesis that the association between amount of intergroup contact and motivation for social change depends on the content of the encounter. Specifically, intergroup contact that prioritizes differences between groups (over commonalities) can predict greater motivation for social change among members of advantaged groups. Our findings reveal, consistent with the literature on preferences for the content of contact, that an intergroup interaction that is focused on differences predicts greater motivation for social change, but only if such interaction is part of repeated positive contact experiences. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of findings.

Read More

Willingness to Engage in Intergroup Contact

Numerous studies point to the potential of intergroup contact for reducing prejudice and intergroup tension. However, this potential can be realized only when group members are willing to engage in intergroup contact. The goal of the current article is to provide a theoretical framework for understanding the barriers and the motivations that explain why individuals would be willing (or not) to engage in intergroup contact. Our taxonomy relies on Pettigrew’s (1997) multilevel approach for analyzing social phenomenon, considering the impact of factors at the macro societal level, the meso intermediate level, and the micro individual level. This taxonomy enables us to devote special attention to barriers and motivations that are specific to groups trapped in violent intergroup conflict (macrolevel factors), to barriers and motivations that result from membership in social groups (mesolevel factors), and to motivators and barriers that exist at the intrapersonal level (e.g., microlevel factors). We discuss the integration of the various levels and the implication of such integration for future research and practice. This article forms a roadmap for investigating a relatively understudied angle in the literature on contact and provides both theoretical and practical insights as to when and why individuals are willing to engage in intergroup contact.

Read More

Mobility Intentions Among Members of Disadvantaged Groups

A current debate surrounds the issue of whether prejudice-reducing interventions such as intergroup contact may reduce resistance to unequal intergroup relations among disadvantaged groups. Addressing this question, the present research investigates how positive contact with members of the advantaged group shapes action strategies to deal with disadvantage. Using survey data from a sample of Latino Americans (N =112), structural equation modelling revealed that friendship contact with Anglo-Whites was overall negatively associated with interest in collective action. This relation was due to both reduced identification with the disadvantaged group and positive attitudes toward the advantaged group, which predicted reduced anger about inequality. Contact was also positively associated with an individual mobility orientation, a relation which was explained through increased perceived permeability. Individual mobility orientation did not, however, predict reduced motivation for collective action. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings and novel directions for future research are discussed.

Read More

The Willingness to Negotiate in Asymmetric Intergroup Conflicts

In this research, we investigated how group power influences the way members of groups in asymmetrical conflict approach intergroup negotiations. Drawing on theories of negotiations and of intergroup power, we predicted that group power would interact with features of the proposed negotiating agenda to influence willingness to come to the table. Based on the negotiation literature, we focused on 2 types of sequential negotiation agendas: 1) beginning with the discussion of consequential issues before less consequential issues (consequential first) and 2) leaving the discussion of consequential issues until after less consequential issues are discussed (consequential later). Because they are motivated to advance changes to their disadvantaged status, we expected low-power group members to favor consequential first over consequential later invitations to negotiate. High-power group members, motivated to protect their advantage, were expected to show the reverse preference. Converging evidence from 5 experiments involving real-world and experimental groups supported these predictions. Across studies, participants received an invitation to negotiate from the other group involving either a consequential first or consequential later agenda. Low-power group members preferred consequential first invitations because these implied less stalling of change to the status quo, and high-power group members preferred consequential later invitations because these invitations seemed to pose less threat to their position. Theoretical and practical implications for negotiations research and conflict resolution are discussed.

Read More

Group Power and the Desired Content of Intergroup Interactions

Power disparities between groups are characteristic of human societies, regardless of their era, culture, economic system, or form of government. Far-reaching cross-cultural evidence shows that group-based inequality is ubiquitous, universal, and much more enduring than unstable (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Among the most prominent of the social forces contributing to the maintenance of power disparities are the ideological messages that work to legitimize hierarchy by masking group dominance or making it appear just and natural (Jackman, 1994).

Read More

Intergroup Contact can Produce False Expectations for Equality

Positive intergroup contact has been a guiding framework for research on reducing intergroup tension and for interventions aimed at that goal. We propose that beyond improving attitudes toward the out-group, positive contact affects disadvantaged-group members’ perceptions of intergroup inequality in ways that can undermine their support for social change toward equality. In Study 1, participants were assigned to either high- or low-power experimental groups and then brought together to discuss either commonalities between the groups or intergroup differences. Commonality-focused contact, relative to difference-focused contact, produced heightened expectations for fair (i.e., egalitarian) out-group behavior among members of disadvantaged groups. These expectations, however, proved unrealistic when compared against the actions of members of the advantaged groups. Participants in Study 2 were Israeli Arabs (a disadvantaged minority) who reported the amount of positive contact they experienced with Jews. More positive intergroup contact was associated with increased perceptions of Jews as fair, which in turn predicted decreased support for social change. Implications for social change are considered.

Read More

Paradoxical Thinking

Paradoxical Thinking as a Conflict Resolution Intervention

Conflict-resolution interventions based on the paradoxical thinking principles, that is, expressing amplified, exaggerated, or even absurd ideas that are congruent with the held conflict-supporting societal beliefs, have been shown to be an effective avenue of intervention, especially among individuals who are adamant in their views. However, the question as to why these interventions have been effective has remained unanswered. In the present research, we have examined possible underlying psychological mechanisms, focusing on identity threat, surprise, and general disagreement. In a small-scale lab study and a large-scale longitudinal study, we compared paradoxical thinking interventions with traditional interventions based on providing inconsistent information. The paradoxical thinking interventions led rightists to show more unfreezing of held conflict-supporting beliefs and openness to alternative information, whereas the inconsistency-based interventions tended to be more effective with the centrist participants. Both studies provide evidence that the effects were driven by identity threat, surprise, and lower levels of disagreement.

Read More

Influence of Paradoxical Thinking on Attitudes During Violence

In the current paper, we report a large-scale randomized field experiment, conducted among Jewish Israelis during widespread violence. The study examines the effectiveness of a “real world,” multichanneled paradoxical thinking intervention, with messages disseminated through various means of communication (i.e., online, billboards, flyers). Over the course of 6 weeks, we targeted a small city in the center of Israel whose population is largely rightwing and religious. Based on the paradoxical thinking principles, the intervention involved transmission of messages that are extreme but congruent with the shared Israeli ethos of conflict. To examine the intervention’s effectiveness, we conducted a large-scale field experiment (prepost design) in which we sampled participants from the city population (n = 215) and compared them to a control condition (from different places of residence) with similar demographic and political characteristics (n = 320). Importantly, participants were not aware that the intervention was related to the questionnaires they answered. Results showed that even in the midst of a cycle of ongoing violence within the context of one of the most intractable conflicts in the world, the intervention led hawkish participants to decrease their adherence to conflict-supporting attitudes across time. Furthermore, compared with the control condition, hawkish participants that were exposed to the paradoxical thinking intervention expressed less support for aggressive policies that the government should consider as a result of the escalation in violence and more support for conciliatory policies to end the violence and promote a long-lasting agreement.

Read More

Paradoxical Thinking as Intervention to Promote Peace

In societies involved in an intractable conflict, there are strong socio-psychological barriers that contribute to the continuation and intractability of the conflict. Based on a unique field study conducted in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we offer a new avenue to overcome these barriers by exposing participants to a long-term paradoxical intervention campaign expressing extreme ideas that are congruent with the shared ethos of conflict. Results show that the intervention, although counterintuitive, led participants to express more conciliatory attitudes regarding the conflict, particularly among participants with center and right political orientation. Most importantly, the intervention even influenced participants’ actual voting patterns in the 2013 Israeli general elections: Participants who were exposed to the paradoxical intervention, which took place in proximity to the general elections, reported that they tended to vote more for dovish parties, which advocate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. These effects were long lasting, as the participants in the intervention condition expressed more conciliatory attitudes when they were reassessed 1 year after the intervention. Based on these results, we propose a new layer to the general theory of persuasion based on the concept of paradoxical thinking.

Read More

De-biasing Techniques

Overcoming the Barrier of Narrative Adherence in Conflicts

One significant socio-psychological barrier for peaceful resolution of conflicts is each party’s adherence to its own collective narrative. We hypothesized that raising awareness to the psychological bias of naïve realism and its identification in oneself would provide a path to overcoming this barrier, thus increasing openness to the adversary’s narrative. We conducted three experimental studies in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Studies 1 and 2, conducted among Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis, respectively, revealed that participants with hawkish political ideology reported greater openness to the adversary’s narrative when they were made aware of naïve realism bias. Study 3 revealed that hawkish participants at the baseline adhered to the ingroup narrative and resisted the adversary’s narrative more than dovish participants. They were also more able to identify the bias in themselves upon learning about it. This identification may explain why the manipulation led to bias correction only among hawkish participants.

Read More


Support for Political Compromise After 8 Weeks of Mindfulness

Mindfulness training has been shown to have a beneficial impact on emotions and perceptions. We examined whether it would reduce negative emotions and perceptions and lead to increased support for compromise in the context of prolonged intergroup conflict. We also examined the effect of an intervention that combines mindfulness with cognitive reappraisal, a method that enhances emotion regulation. Israeli students participated in a mindfulness course that either began in the winter semester (mindfulness group) or in the spring semester (control group). After the termination of the mindfulness course, all participants were invited to a laboratory session in which they were randomly assigned to either receive or not a short cognitive reappraisal training. The results showed that after being presented with anger-inducing information related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, participants in the mindfulness condition only, the reappraisal condition only or the combined group (mindfulness and reappraisal), were more supportive of conciliatory policies compared to participants that received no mindfulness nor reappraisal training. The increased support for conciliatory policies was mediated by a decrease in negative emotions in all groups, while in the mindfulness group, it was also mediated by reduction in negative perceptions. The combined impact of mindfulness and reappraisal did not reveal any additional effect.

Read More

Emotion Regulation

Influence of Conflict-Related Content on Emotion Regulation

Do rightists and leftists experience information about suffering and harm with differing emotional intensities, depending on the identity of target depicted? Do they consequently choose differently how to regulate or cope with these emotions Research has identified ideological differences in emotional processes, but it has yet to identify what types of content lead to ideological differences in emotional intensity or whether these content-dependent differences relate to differing preferences for engaging versus disengaging emotion regulation strategies.

Read More

Emotion Regulation and the Cultivation of Political Tolerance

The goal of the current project is to integrate psychological research on emotion regulation with the study of democratic practices in general and political intolerance in particular. We hypothesized that the use of a well-established emotion regulation strategy, cognitive reappraisal, would be associated with lower levels of group-based negative emotions toward one’s least-liked group and lower levels of political intolerance toward that group. Preliminary data based on nationwide survey conducted among Jews in Israel show that the tendency to reappraise negative emotions during war is associated with more tolerant attitudes. In studies 1 and 2, we experimentally manipulated reappraisal, and this led to reduced levels of political intolerance toward Palestinian Citizens of Israel (study 1) and toward one’s least-liked group (study 2). These effects were transmitted via a decrease in negative emotions in both studies, as well as by an increase in support for general democratic values in Study 2.

Read More

Social-Psychological Interventions for Intergroup Reconciliation

Intergroup reconciliation is a requirement for lasting peace in the context of intergroup conflicts. In this article, we offer an emotion regulation perspective on social-psychological interventions aimed at facilitating intergroup reconciliation. In the first section of the article, we conceptualize intergroup reconciliation as an emotion-regulation process involving positive affective change and offer a framework that integrates the emotion regulation and intergroup reconciliation literatures. In the sections that follow, we review social psychological interventions that involve changes in beliefs and identity and assess their effects on specific intergroup emotions pertinent for intergroup reconciliation. More specifically, we focus our discussion on specific reconciliation-oriented intervention strategies and their relation to emotions pertinent for facilitating reconciliation, including intergroup hatred, anger, guilt, hope, and empathy. In the final section, we consider key implications and growth points for the field of intergroup reconciliation.

Read More

Emotion Regulation in Intractable Conflicts

It has long been apparent that negative emotions play a central role in intractable conflicts. Only recently, however, have scholars begun to use methods from affective science to test whether emotion regulation strategies can be used to influence conflict-related emotions in a way that would facilitate conflict resolution. To provide the context for this work, we begin by considering the roles emotions play in intractable conflicts. Next, we discuss how emotion regulation might be relevant to intractable conflicts, with a particular focus on cognitive reappraisal. We then review recent studies, conducted mainly in the context of the Middle East conflict, which suggest that cognitive reappraisal may be able to reduce negative emotions and promote public support for peaceful policies. We conclude by describing future challenges and opportunities for research in this area.

Read More

Can Emotion Regulation Change Political Attitudes in Conflicts?

We hypothesized that an adaptive form of emotion regulation—cognitive reappraisal—would decrease negative emotion and increase support for conflict-resolution policies. In Study 1, Israeli participants were invited to a laboratory session in which they were randomly assigned to either a cognitive-reappraisal condition or a control condition; they were then presented with anger-inducing information related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Participants in the reappraisal condition were more supportive of conciliatory policies and less supportive of aggressive policies compared with participants in the control condition. In Study 2, we replicated these findings in responses to a real political event (the recent Palestinian bid for United Nations recognition). When assessed 1 week after training, participants trained in cognitive reappraisal showed greater support for conciliatory policies and less support for aggressive policies toward Palestinians compared with participants in a control condition. These effects persisted when participants were reassessed 5 months after training, and at both time points, negative emotion mediated the effects of reappraisal.

Read More