Humans base their identity at least partly in the social groups of which they are members. The presence of competition or conflict between groups can lead the “in-group” to feel that protecting its identity requires self-distinguishment through hostile behavior towards the “out-group.” When these in-groups behave aggressively towards out-groups, members must either conform or sacrifice an important part of their identity by leaving the group.
When entire groups behave aggressively towards each other, cycles of collective violence can occur in which victim groups may collectively remember and internalize their victimization, thus increasing the likelihood of victimized groups becoming violent in the future. Cycles of victimhood and perpetration can leave groups trapped in escalating patterns of violence that can lead to genocide, apartheid, and political repression. These cycles can be broken when individuals begin to heal and forgive, when basic needs are met and justice is served, and when groups stop basing their identities on hating other groups. Once the cycle of collective violence is broken, society can begin the long process of reconciliation.
This presentation explores the role of group identity in instigating collective violence as well as reconciliation. The presentation uses examples from Argentina, South Africa, Rwanda, and other countries with a history of conflict to illustrate the factors that can lead to collective violence, the factors that end collective violence, and the types of reconciliation that have been tried. Given the prevalence of group violence in today’s world and the relative lack of psychological research on social and cognitive processes that may contribute to violent group behavior, this literature review provides a foothold in the door of crucial future research on the psychological causes and cures for genocide.
Emma Jacobs ’11
St. Paul, MN
Majors: Religion, Psychology
Sponsor: Alice Ganzel