Between Conflict and Reconciliation: Toward a Theory of Peaceful Coexistence
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter explores the factors that cause and nurture intractable conflict between enduring groups, examines the implications of a focus on peaceful coexistence, and relates this perspective to theories of conflict resolution and reconciliation. The ultimate aim is to address the question about why ethnic and cultural conflict is so prevalent and persistent and suggest approaches to improve intergroup relations. To support its position, the chapter draws on observations and research on peace programs involving ethnic groups consumed by intractable conflict, groups involving immigrants and hosts, and ethnic groups living on the island of Hawaii.
Few topics in social psychology excite students' interest as much as intergroup relations. They are captivated by descriptions of the confrontations between the Eagles and Rattlers at Sherif's Robbers Cave (Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood, & Sherif, 1961 and the elegant logic of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979 that relates groups to individual identity. But they are also quick to identify the disconnect between the research and current global conditions: “If social psychologists know so much about the intergroup hostility, why is this hatred so common throughout the world?”
The only thing to fear is fear itself.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Whether one looks at the Middle East, Balkans, Spain, Fiji, Ireland, and the United States, one finds violent conflict between groups. These conflicts are noteworthy not only because of the level of violence and cruelty, but also because of their persistence. Although the individual combatants may change from generation to generation, the participating groups remain the same. These groups are typically ethnic or cultural groups that are characterized by their endurance (long history and expectation of future existence) and the fact (p.424) that group membership is permanent (individual born into the group and is always a member of the group).
Existing theories do not comfortably explain why conflict between these groups often becomes chronic and stubbornly resists resolution. Given the destructiveness and suffering that occurs in these conflicts, it is imperative to develop a better understanding of the causes and possible cures of persistent confrontation between enduring groups. We suggest that a combination of unique factors conspire to maintain these conflicts over generations and make them resistant to change. We also propose that a critical step in dealing with these conflicts involves achieving peaceful coexistence between these groups. Our goals in this chapter are to explore the factors that cause and nurture intractable conflict between enduring groups, examine the implications of a focus on peaceful coexistence, and relate this perspective to theories of conflict resolution and reconciliation. Our ultimate aim is to address the question about why ethnic and cultural conflict is so prevalent and persistent and suggest approaches to improve intergroup relations. In supporting our position we will draw on our observations and research on peace programs involving ethnic groups consumed by intractable conflict, groups involving immigrants and hosts, and ethnic groups living on the island of Hawaii.
Lighting the Fuse: Causes of Intergroup Hatred and Conflict
To begin the journey toward coexistence, it is important to understand the forces working against this relationship. Social psychology offers two general theories to explain the animosity between groups. Realistic conflict theory (Sherif, 1966 suggests that competition for scarce resources ignites the fires of conflict and hatred. The competitive contests between the newly established groups at Robber's Cave (Sherif et al., 1961 demonstrate the possible negative effects of competition.
Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979 and social categorization theory (Turner, 1985 offer a different perspective. They suggest that groups comprise a critical component of an individual's identity (his/her social identity). Because individuals covet positive self-identities, they are motivated to join positive groups and/or advantage their in-group while discriminating against out-groups. Out-groups are disliked because they threaten the individual's positive identity. Groups, in a sense, are the clothes that cloak one's identity, and the identity can be improved by changing groups, reconstituting the social world into different groupings, or by enhancing (relatively) one's in-group.
(p.425) These theories have received wide support and have been valuable for understanding the causes of hostility between many groups. But in giving them their due, it is important to remember their rather humble beginnings. Realistic conflict theory developed from a paradigm that involved constituting groups of individuals who initially shared many common characteristics. After the groups are formed, competition is introduced into a situation. Factors such as the nature of the group, its history, its culture, and its meaning for the individual are effectively excluded. The methodological foundation of social identity theory is even more refined. The minimal group paradigm (Tajfel, 1970 involved developing cognitive categories linking individuals by real or imaginary characteristics. Not only are factors such as group history and culture uninvited, but actual interaction between group members is not necessary. However, the meaning of the group for the individual's identity takes center stage.
These approaches are methodologically elegant because they allow an examination of the most basic conditions that can lead to group hostility. However, we suggest that reliance on these paradigms may mask factors that are critical to the development of intergroup hostility in some very important situations. In order to illustrate this point, let's move the setting from the foothills of Oklahoma (Robber's Cave) to the woods of Maine where each summer since 1991 adolescents from groups involved in violent and protracted conflict (Middle East, South Asia, Balkans, Cyprus) have gathered at the Seeds of Peace International Camp (Wallach, 2000. Participants live together for 2-3 weeks, engage in typical camp activities (swimming, arts and crafts, sporting events), and discuss the conflict in their regions. This camp is a prototype of countless peace programs from around the world that aim to promote peace in regions of violent conflict (see Cannon, 2003 Maoz, 2000). The programs differ in duration, specific activities, and participants (immigrants/host, majority/minority, international tension), but in all cases the participants represent different cultural and ethnic groups.
We have spent the last 10 years working with several programs and our observations along with those reported in the literature (Maoz, 2000 Wallach, 2000) raise several points that relate to the causes of persistent intergroup hatred. One critical issue concerns the nature of the group or category. Membership in most groups to which people belong is voluntary (e.g., chosen) and temporary. Individuals can choose to leave the group or join other groups. For example, a colleague recently announced that after 20 years as a social psychologist, she now considered herself to be an organizational psychologist. However, there are a few groups into which we are born (religious, nationality, economic status). In some of these cases, we can renounce our membership in these groups; we can convert from one religion to another or adopt (p.426) another nationality. But our membership in some groups is permanent, and we can neither choose to leave the group nor can the group exclude us. Our ethnicity is one example of this type of group (Verkuyten, 2005. We are born into our ethnic group, and although its salience may vary, we will always be a member of the ethnic group. Ethnic groups are generally defined by language, culture, history, homeland, physical characteristics, and blood line (biological heritage). A critical component of these groups is their history and future endurance. Ethnic groups, for example, have a history of data, myths, and recollection that describes their beginning and justifies their existence (Worchel, 1999. They typically have a homeland or place of origin that has a spiritual quality for the group. It would be unthinkable to sell or barter away any part of this homeland. The future of the group is equally important. Not only will the individual always be part of this group, but his/her children and their children will be members of this group. For example, in countless discussion sessions at the Seeds of Peace camp, participants recount the Old Testament to justify the existence of the Jews or Palestinians in Israel and make passionate announcements about protecting the land and the group for unborn children and grandchildren.
Although it is tempting to consider these groups within a social identity framework, a unique quality creeps into the calculus. Social identity theory views the group as a component of the individual identity. However, in the case of these enduring groups, the focus shifts from the individual to the group. The group is not so much a component of the individual's identity as the individual is a part of (and protector of) the group identity. For example, Worchel, Webb, and Hills (1987) collected responses on the Cantril Self Anchoring Scale (1965) from respondents in New Zealand, border region of Texas, China, and prewar Yugoslavia. A typical response to questions about hopes and fears was “I don't care much about myself, but it is important that I protect the Maori culture so that it will be strong in the future. I worry that the Maori language and customs, even the Maori people, will be gone in the next 100 years.”
A second point of departure between the intractable conflicts and those focused on the present situation involves the nature of the conflict. In many cases, conflict is viewed as disagreement(s) between groups, often over resources (realistic conflict theory). The disagreement is relatively contemporary and the aggrieved parties are present. Social identity theory expanded the territory in pointing out that the roots of intergroup conflict are concern for individual identity arising from the simple demarcation of groups or categories. However, our observations and the literature on intractable conflicts (Bar-Tal, 2001 reveal some very different characteristics. First, there is the issue of history. The root of conflict is often generations in the past. Ethnic groups often make historical claims based on a one-sided interpretation of events, but which (p.427) are interpreted as fact. For example, many Palestinians recount that the Jews came to Israel in the 1940s and kicked out the Arabs, while Jews trace their presence in the region to the time of Abraham. Similarly, present day conflicts about Hawaiian sovereignty are rooted in perceptions that missionaries came to Hawaii in the 1860s and stole Hawaiian land. The immediate conflict may involve discrimination or land, but the latent causes are buried deep in the past. Settling present differences may temporarily cool passions, but the underlying historical causes remain. History not only defines the group, but it is also the heart of the conflict. The role of history is not given sufficient credence in many explanations for intergroup conflict. And, as we will explain in the next section, the challenge of addressing past grievances of individuals long dead presents a conundrum for conflict resolution. Positive feelings for the out-group are likely to be accompanied by guilt as the in-group member remembers, or is reminded of, past conflicts.
Concern for group security (indeed, group existence) has a prominent place in intractable conflict. History demonstrates that the out-group is a threat to the security and existence of the in-group. An acre of barren land or the right to speak one's native language assumes vital importance in the relation between groups because they symbolize the right of the group to exist. Compromise on these issues is tantamount to compromising group security and safety. Any sacrifice of security in the present has negative implications for the group's future existence. Israel has repeatedly demanded that its Arab neighbors guarantee its right to exist before any further negotiations take place. Bar-Tal (1990a) presents a similar analysis in his examination of delegitimization. Compromise delegitimizes the right of the group to exist or be treated fairly.
Herein hides the culprit in violent conflict between enduring groups such as ethnic groups. The underlying characteristic of ethnic (and to a lesser extent, international) conflict is fear (Bar-Tal, 2001 Greenland & Brown, 1999; Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2005). The fear is not simply general anxiety (Smith, 1993 Stephan & Stephan, 1985). It involves a real or perceived threat that the out-group will destroy the in-group. The fear is not about the individual and his/her position or life, but rather it focuses on the existence and security of the in-group, now and in the future. Worchel and Coutant (2004) found high fear of the out-group in campers entering peace programs. For example, one camper observed: “The Israelis want to destroy the Palestinians and our way of life. Palestinians as a people will cease to exist.” In another case, a Hawaiian responded, “The Hawaiian language, culture, and way of life will disappear if we do not take a stand now.” Responses to other types of conflicts typically include anger and hostility, but not fear (Brewer & Brown, 1998.
The consequences of fear on intergroup conflict are profound and pervasive. Fear dominates and controls thinking. Bar-Tal (2001) observes, “Societies (p.428) involved in intractable conflict tend to be dominated by a collective fear orientation.” Fear sensitizes attention to threatening cues; it gives priority to processing information about potential threats (LeDoux, 1996. Fear leads individuals to interpret ambiguous information or events as negative and threatening. Once fear invades an individual or group, there is a need to justify that fear. No group wants to feel that it is experiencing unreasonable or unfounded fear. Fear may not be reasoned, but there is a need to make it appear reasonable. The fear of the out-group can best be justified by enhancing the danger posed by the out-group. Enhancing the danger, however, not only justifies existing fear, but it also becomes the stimulus for higher levels of fear (Wilder, 1993. It is important to realize that the basis for the present fear may be clearly justifiable. However, the level of fear may be greatly exaggerated when placed in a historical context.
Associated with these evil portrayals of the out-group are perceptions of out-group homogeneity (Figure 18.1). Individuals who fear the out-group fail to differentiate between members of the out-group (Wilder & Shapiro, 1989 and view them as dangerous and evil. “It (Arab) is like a curse in slang Hebrew. When someone plays some sport badly, the other ones say, you play like an ‘Arab’ ” (Wallach, 2000, p. 38). Fear of specific groups becomes chronic and is adopted into the group's history (Covell, 1996. Analyses of Israeli society (Bar-Gal, 1993 Yaoz, 1980) suggest that fear invades every pore of society (politics, literature, school books, media, and religion). The present Middle East conflict is interpreted against the framework of the Holocaust and thousands of years of persecution of Jews. Present and the past emotions easily merge and become indistinguishable, an effect that is not possible in conflict between new or ad hoc groups.
(p.429) Fear also affects group dynamics. Fear leads people to affiliate and communicate with similar others (Schachter, 1959. Terror management theory (Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszcynski, 1997 argues that when people are confronted with their own demise, group membership and identity become more salient. And shared fear (collective fear) increases group cohesiveness, acceptance of centralized leadership, conformity, and rejection of deviants (Worchel, Coutant-Sassic, & Grossman, 1992. Increased group cohesiveness laced with high fear nurtures hostility toward the out-group (Stephan, 1985 Worchel, Coutant-Sassic, & Wong, 1993). Both psychological (Newcomb, 1947 and group forces motivate individuals to avoid contact with out-group members (Figure 18.2).
It is tempting to lament the effects of fear. However, its effects are often functional to both the individual and group. Fear “is an evolutionary safeguard that ensures survival in view of potential threats and dangers” (Bar-Tal, 2001, p. 605). From the group's perspective, fear maintains loyalty to the group and solidifies the position of leaders. Fear of the out-group, not love of the in-group, is often the glue that binds people together and allows the group to maintain its identity. Group members are frequently reminded of the danger of the out-group. “In every generation they rise up to destroy us, and we must remember that this could happen in the future” (Rabin, 1987, cited by Bar-Tal, 2001, p. 617).
The bottom line is that the conflict that occurs between these enduring groups often has causes that are distinct from those found in the conflict between temporary or ad hoc groups. We do not mean to imply that all ethnic, or enduring, group conflicts are intractable. However, once violence and
Toward Tolerance and Coexistence
The literature on the resolution of intergroup conflict is both long and broad. Allport (1954) blazed the trail by suggesting that contact between groups is a necessary condition to begin the resolution process. Research (Pettigrew, 1997 Stephan, 1985) has generally supported the contact hypothesis, but there have been important modifications. Amir (1969) argued that the contact must occur in a setting in which both groups have equal status. Sherif et al. (1961) demonstrated that the contact must involve repeated incidents of cooperation toward superordinate goals. Worchel, Andreoli, and Folger (1977) found that cooperation reduces conflict only when the efforts are successful.
Pettigrew (1997) suggested that contact can be the basis for forming friendships across group lines, and this attraction can be generalized to the groups. Other explanations for the influence of contact are based on social identity theory suggesting that reducing the prominence of the line that separates groups should reduce intergroup hostility. There are two approaches toward this end. One involves emphasizing the commonality between the groups, and creating (cognitively) one supergroup that incorporates the members of both groups. Recategorization results when contact emphasizes characteristics shared by all individuals (Gaertner, Dovidio, & Bachman, 1996. Many peace programs, for example, require participants to wear the same uniform, speak a common language, and/or refer to themselves with a common name (e.g., Seeds in the Seeds of Peace camp) to create a new supergroup. A second cognitive process is decategorization, which involves eliminating group distinction and viewing each person as an individual (Bettencourt, Brewer, Croak, & Miller, 1992 Brewer & Miller, 1984).
There is clear logic to these explanations, and each approach has supporting research (Gaertner, Mann, Murrell, & Dovidio, 1989. However, we suggest that these perspectives are best applied to ad hoc groups that are not central to individual identity. There are several reasons why these approaches may have limited value in dealing with conflict involving enduring groups, such as ethnic groups, in which membership is permanent and the group is central to personal identity.
(p.431) Achieving Intergroup Contact
There is a Cajun saying that dental hygiene is good for the alligator, but how do you get the alligator to brush its teeth. A similar statement might apply to cooperative contact and intergroup hostility; contact might be beneficial for the groups but how does one get the groups to engage in cooperative contact. The answer is relatively simple in the laboratory where the participants are controlled by the experimenter. However, the situation is very different with ethnic, cultural, or religious groups engaged in protracted violent conflict. In these cases, the individuals hate and fear each other. The in-group often prohibits unapproved cooperation with the enemy. Indeed, participants in peace programs and camps often state that they are concerned about how they will be treated when they return home, and report being shunned or scolded for engaging in contact with the out-group.
For this reason, we stress the point made by Pettigrew (1998) that intergroup contact must be promoted and supported by recognized in-group leaders. Many peace programs invite in-group leaders to help select participants and require the in-group to send observers (adult) to accompany the participants. Their presence sanctions the contact and these observers help publicize the contact to other group members. However, even with steps, it is important to recognize that contact and the friendships across groups do not necessarily address the critical component of conflict: fear for the security of the in-group. This explains why neighbors, even husbands and wives, can become bitter enemies in ethnic conflicts (Worchel, 1999.
A Passing Fancy?
Recategorization and decategorization may be effective in reducing conflict when change in real or perceived category membership is possible. The Eagles and Rattlers can shed their separate identities because their conflict is confined to the camp experience, and that experience will soon end. However, the African Americans cannot escape this identity, either physically or psychologically. Not only do physical constraints and the group's ever present role in personal identity work against adopting a new identity, but when the individual returns to his/her home, others will quickly remind him/her of group identity. Ethnic identity is the lens through which relations with members of certain other groups are interpreted and evaluated, and members of one's in-group will remind an individual to wear his/her glasses. The Jew will always remember, and be reminded of the Holocaust, especially when interacting with Germans.
(p.432) It is difficult to conceive of a situation that could motivate an individual to reduce the importance of a component that is so core to personal identity. However, even if this could be achieved, the effect on intergroup conflict should be muted, transitory, and largely confined to the specific contact situation (Hornsey & Hogg, 2000a, 2000b. For the most part, social psychology is a science of the here and now (McGrath & Tschan, 2004. Dependent measures are generally collected shortly after the manipulation of the independent variable. The typical study on conflict resolution examines only the immediate effects of contact, cooperation, and recategorization (Brewer & Brown, 1998 Stephan & Stephan, 2001). Research evaluating programs of intergroup contact generally collect measures of impact at the end of the program. It is obviously important to determine how individuals feel after contact with out-group members, but care must be taken about generalizing to long-term consequences. Malhorta and Liyanage (2003) examined the impact of a 4-day peace camp that brought together Tamil and Sinhalese adolescents. Measures taken 1 year after participation showed that the only enduring effect was that participants empathized more with the out-group than did nonparticipants. There were no long-term differences between participants and nonparticipants on measures of trust of the out-group and social distance (recategorization). Our research on peace programs found that increased attraction for and more positive stereotypes of the out-group did not endure beyond the program setting. However, the program did have lasting impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy, fear of the out-group and perception of out-group homogeneity. We suggest that cognitive reorganization of group categories will most likely have positive effects when the conflict involves ad hoc groups with no history and no expectations of future existence. In the case of more enduring groups, such as ethnic groups, the effect will be of short duration, often limited to the immediate contact situation.
To what end? Before going further, one more issue needs to be raised. Investigators of conflict resolution have employed a wide variety of measures to chart the thawing of intergroup conflict. These measures include assigning imaginary points, evaluating out-group performance, attraction, formation of friends, intergroup helping or cooperation, trust of the out-group, and perception of in-group and out-group. Nadler and Liviatan (2004) emphasized that trust, feelings of power, control and moral worthiness are outcomes of reconciliation. The aim of many peace programs is very clear, although not necessarily clearly reasoned. These programs want/expect dramatic change in attraction across group boundaries, cooperation, and positive stereotypes of the out-group. For example, Cornerstone International Youth Camp states that its aims are to get participants to “think globally and build global friendships”; the Middle East Camp for Children (Seattle) states that “We hope that (p.433) through the week that the children, teenagers, and adults will take another step toward peace through friendship and knowledge.”
This variety of measures provides a broad examination of the relationship between groups, but it raises several theoretical issues. At the most elementary level, the cafeteria of dependent measures suggests a conceptual fuzziness. Does conflict resolution imply intergroup attraction or does it simply involve agreement over a resource disagreement? Nadler and Liviatan (2004) suggest that conflict resolution is best reflected in agreements over resources, while reconciliation is best gauged by emotional responses. How do these various responses relate (or should relate) to each other? For example, does attraction necessarily accompany reduced discrimination and more equal distribution of resources? It is equally unclear whether some outcomes are the direct products of specific processes (Wright & Taylor, 2005. For example, could attraction be the product of decategorization while trust and compromise follow recategorization? Finally, there is the pesky question of whether some responses are more durable than others.
The plethora of dependent variables is both a blessing and curse for the field of intergroup relations. On one hand, it demonstrates the range of behaviors and emotions involved in intergroup relations, and suggests a host of new research issues for the field. On the other hand, the variety of measures demands greater conceptual clarity in the theories and research. The broad label of conflict resolution may not adequately describe efforts to improve the relationship between groups. To this end, a case has been made for considering reconciliation as a process that is distinct, but related to conflict resolution (Minow, 1998 Nadler & Liviatan, 2004). We propose that the process for achieving peaceful coexistence also should be examined in this framework. In the next section, we will make the case for acceptance as a distinct process by suggesting that hatred and conflict between enduring groups with permanent membership (e.g., ethnic groups) have unique causes that require unique solutions. We also suggest that a state of peaceful coexistence is defined by specific outcomes that are directly related to the causal factors of conflict and are durable over time.
A Model of Peaceful Coexistence Between Enduring Groups
Our starting point is a focus on groups that are enduring (have a history and expectations for future existence) in which group membership is permanent or relatively permanent. An example of this type of group is the ethnic group, although religious and national groups may also fit the category. We are also (p.434) most concerned with conflicts that can be viewed as intractable and violent. We adopt this focus because these types of conflicts are among the most destructive and violent, and efforts to improve intergroup relations in these situations often prove ineffective, especially in the long run. Further, these conflicts and the groups involved are not easily handled by existing theories of intergroup relations.
Our approach builds on recent discussions of reconciliation (Nadler & Saguy, 2004 Scheff, 1994) that recognize the role of past events in present conflicts, and the importance of dealing with emotions engendered by conflict. Nadler (2002) has suggested two types of reconciliation processes: socioemotional processes, which involve a specific act, such as an apology, and forgiveness exchange, which allows the immediate halting of the cycle of negative emotions associated with conflict. This release of pent up emotions theoretically then allows conflict parties to build trust. Instrumental reconciliation, on the other hand, also focuses on both parties building trust, but in a more gradual manner than socioemotional processes. Thus, instrumental reconciliation is a product of measured, incremental steps, which allows parties in conflict to reduce animosity and build trust.
Our model departs from the work on reconciliation, particularly socioemotional reconciliation at two important conceptual junctures. The reconciliation process often adopts a perspective that involves perpetrators apologizing for past transgressions and victims forgiving these transgressions. Our observations of discussion groups involved in intractable conflict reveals that both sides are firmly convinced that their group is the victim. Endless debates often revolve around which side has suffered the greatest wrong. Worchel (1999) points out that it is difficult to identify a single example of a war in which one side admits that it is the aggressor. Apology implies accepting the role as perpetrator. In addition, discussion of past sufferings (victimization) often heightens tensions and increases the fear of the out-group. Second, it is unclear whether forgiveness involves forgiving present group members for transgressions of ancestors or forgiving the ancestors for their own actions. Our observations suggest that when apologies are offered, they are done so with the aim of extracting recipricol apologies, not forgiveness. The apology implies that past actions will not be repeated, and this reduces fear over group security. Reconciliation and forgiveness may be long-term consequences that follow the establishment of peaceful coexistence. Hence, any effort to distinguish victim from perpetrator or separate apology from forgiveness can quickly become the source of additional conflict.
Instrumental reconciliation is more closely related to our model in that it requires a dynamic approach with a recognition of the concept of time. But the concept of instrumental reconciliation focuses primarily on trust as the (p.435) sole product. Our model suggests there are competing pressures and concerns involved in intractable conflicts and although trust may help soothe the waters, there are other issues that must be addressed to achieve peaceful coexistence. With these points in mind, let us present our perspective on achieving peaceful coexistence between enduring groups.
On the causal side of the equation, we suggest that the root of hatred and violence between enduring groups is concern about in-group security. The out-group is identified as a threat to in-group security, and collective fear of the out-group arises as a result of this view. The precipitating incident may be competition over scarce resources or events internal to the in-group (e.g., economic difficulties or rumors about the out-group's aggressive intentions). Regardless of the proximate cause, the foundation for fear rests in the historical past of the in-group and/or its collective beliefs (Bar-Tal, 1990b. The combination of history, concern about group security, and fear initiate efforts to justify the fear and concern by enhancing the negative characteristics of the out-group. Historical relations with certain out-groups increase both the intensity and breadth of fear experienced from a present conflict. This factor explains why a conflict, even intense conflict, between groups without a history of hatred may be resolved rather quickly, while conflict, even seemingly minor or localized, between groups with a history of confrontation often expand and resist resolution or reconciliation. Escalating fear increases the perception of the out-group as homogeneous and united in its intention to destroy the in-group. These processes are fed by internal group dynamics that pressure individuals to adopt the prevailing group attitudes and emotions and to avoid unsanctioned contact with out-group members.
Effort to reduce the violence and hostility must directly address these causal factors. Intergroup contact may have a positive impact, but several conditions (beyond those identified in earlier studies) must be met in order to achieve a lasting impact. The contact must be sanctioned and approved by respected in-group parties and leaders. Approval can be demonstrated by having group leaders involved in the selection of contact participants, acknowledging the legitimacy of the contact, and/or contributing resources. The contact must be perceived as a means of enhancing group identity and promoting group security. Emphasis on goals such as promoting understanding of the out-group or cooperation will create reluctance to engage in contact unless it is clear that in-group identity and security will be respected. Accepting the right of the group to exist can be achieved through seemingly small, often symbolic, gestures. For example, discussion groups in peace programs are specifically identified as coexistence meetings rather reconciliation or compromise sessions. The coexistence label implies the right of each group to exist. Respect for group identity is often recognized in programs by allowing the groups to hold their own (p.436) religious services (open to others), present their culture (e.g., Culture Night at Seeds of Peace), or hold in-group meetings. This perspective is captured in the Hewstone and Brown (1986) mutual-differentiation model that counters the decategorization approach by suggesting that in some cases conflict resolution must be built on making in-group identity salient and secure.
Efforts to improve the relations between groups should emphasize peaceful coexistence rather than attraction or improving stereotypes. Intergroup attraction is fickle and given that groups/categories will continue to exist, in-group favoritism will continue to exist. Accepting that different groups can coexist, even cooperate, without threatening each other's security does not require affection or positive stereotypes. Further, Worchel and Rothgerber (1997) argued that stereotypes of and attraction for the out-group are deeply rooted within the in-group (e.g., collective beliefs), and not easily changed at the individual level. Peaceful coexistence may be a precondition for intergroup attraction, but attraction does not guarantee peaceful coexistence.
Peaceful coexistence has several components. One involves emotion. Specifically, fear of the out-group must be reduced. Changing fear to curiosity about the out-group can be achieved by emphasizing group and personal security and demystifying cultural practices of the out-group. To reduce fear, contact can be arranged whereby in-group members visit the homes of out-group members, observe their religious ceremonies, hear their history, and visit their schools. These activities do not ignore group differences, but humanize the out-group and demonstrate that these differences are not necessarily a threat to in-group security. It is important to realize that fear reduction efforts must also include opinion leaders in the media, education agencies, textbooks, and politicians (Raviv, Oppenheimer, & Bar-Tal, 1999. Regardless of the specific approach, efforts to achieve peaceful coexistence must focus on reducing fear of the out-group.
Cognition is also an important component. Fear and conflict exacerbate tendencies to view the out-group as homogeneous and evil. Individuals have data based on history and group beliefs that the out-group dislikes and mistreats the in-group. A critical step toward peaceful coexistence involves developing the perception that the out-group, like the in-group, is heterogeneous and composed of individuals with different views, life styles, and desires. The process requires humanizing the out-group (the enemy has a face) while still respecting integrity of group boundaries. A second important cognition is acceptance of the position that group differences do not necessarily result in conflict and violence. This position includes tolerance of intergroup differences (Seeds of Peace, 2000 and acceptance that these differences are not necessarily threats to in-group security. Thomas and Ely (1996) report (p.437) that many businesses are attempting to promote tolerance of diversity by emphasizing how difference enriches the organization. Finally, peaceful coexistence entails enhanced perceptions of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Buddhist philosophy argues that one cannot accept others until one accepts oneself (Kraft, 1992. Participation in violence is often common among those who feel personally insecure and strive for acceptance by their own group (Wright & Taylor, 2005.
The third component of peaceful coexistence is behavioral. Intractable conflicts are often accompanied by discriminatory and/or avoidant behavior patterns that become routine, and, like habits, they remain long after the conflict has diminished. Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957 supports the wisdom of popular slogan practice kindness in suggesting that attitude change often follows behavior change. Behaviors associated with peaceful coexistence include exploration, engaging in both cooperation and competition without resorting to violence, and adopting a problem-solving approach to conflict.
Studying the Impact of Peace Programs
Although it was tempting to set up a study of our model, we found that countless studies were being unwittingly conducted each year around the world. Unfortunately very few of these studies collected systematic data. Each year there are dozens of peace programs with flowery names such as Seeds of Peace, Youth Reconciliation Initiative, and Initiative for Peace taking place in numerous countries. The programs have many of the components that, according to our model, should bring about peaceful coexistence (Figure 18.3). The programs bring together individuals from ethnic groups that are engaged in protracted, often violent, conflict. Although there is considerable variation in duration, context, and participants, all of the programs involve contact and communication between members of the different groups. Contact occurs in a variety of settings including discussion groups (coexistence sessions) and enjoyable activities involving cooperation (athletic contests, arts and crafts, dances). Group identity is maintained by allowing religious services, culture presentations, and in-group meetings. Participants, often teenagers, are chosen by their governments, religious groups, or educational leaders. Often the groups are accompanied by adults from their own regions. Most, but not all, of the programs involved participants living together in mixed-group settings.
We are presently involved in a study of several programs to examine the short- and long-term impact of the programs. Although data are still being (p.438)
A questionnaire was designed to measure variables related to theories of conflict resolution, reconciliation, and the model of peaceful coexistence. These measures included in-group/out-group attraction, perceptions of the in-group and out-group (group homogeneity and stereotypes), perceived group security, perceptions of the conflict (blame, probable outcome), emotions (including fear, happiness, hope), Cantril Self Anchoring Scale, and ratings of the camp activities. In (p.439) addition, self-esteem and self-efficacy were measured. Finally, demographic data and self-reports of involvement (school, social activities, religious attendance, etc.) with the in-group were collected. In addition, interviews were conducted with several of the respondents. A small control group of Israeli and Palestinian was included.
Space permits only a brief overview of the results. Looking first at the immediate impact of the programs (before-immediately after), the results support the broad value of intergroup contact. The preparticipation responses indicated that the out-group was disliked, seen as possessing negative traits (stereotype), perceived as very homogeneous, and portrayed as being the party largely responsible for the conflict. The immediately after data revealed that attraction for the out-group increased and out-group stereotypes became more positive. The out-group was perceived as more heterogeneous, and participants expressed less fear of the out-group and greater hope that the conflict/confrontation would be resolved. At the same time, attraction and positive perceptions of the in-group decreased (before-after) and the in-group was also viewed as more heterogeneous. Further, greater blame was placed on the in-group for causing and perpetuating the conflict (before-after), but most relevant to theories on reconciliation, there was no decrease in the blame of the out-group for the conflict. There was, however, no discernable tendency to increase the perceived similarity between the groups. Finally, self-esteem and self-efficacy became more positive, and evaluations of the camp were overwhelmingly positive. Neither age nor sex of respondent influenced the results. However, the changes were more pronounced in participants from the stronger groups (Israelis, Croats, Serbs) than in the weaker groups (Palestinians, Bosniaks).
The long-term follow-up data, however, revealed a different pattern. The only lasting effects were found in the increased perceptions of both in-group and out-group heterogeneity, reduced fear of the out-group, increased tendency to view the in-group as contributing to the conflict, and elevated self-esteem and self-efficacy. There were no differences (before-long term) in attraction for the in-group or out-group stereotypes (with the exception of dangerous), or anticipation that the conflict would soon end. Evaluations of the contact program were more negative in the long-term ratings than immediately after the program. Participants saw their own future as decidedly more positive than the future of their group, but the group's future was viewed more positively in the long-term ratings than in the before responses (Self Anchoring Scale).
Without going too far with these preliminary data, there are some interesting trends, that if supported by further research, relate to the present discussion on peaceful coexistence. Most importantly, there were clear differences between immediate and long-term impact of the programs. Increases in attraction and positive stereotyping of the out-group disappear over time, while reduced fear of the out-group, increased perceptions of out-group heterogeneity, and enhanced self-esteem and self-efficacy remain even after 2-4 years. These lasting effects were the ones (emotional, cognitive) that we (p.440) have argued are indicative of an acceptance of peaceful coexistence. In the more comprehensive study, we are examining the behavioral component of the model to determine whether participants increase their interaction and communication with the out-group. One other lasting effect is worth noting. Although participants continued to place blame for the conflict on the out-group (both immediate and long term), there was a clear tendency in both immediate and long-term responses to report that their in-group also shared responsibility for the conflict. Although these data do not suggest that the out-group is viewed as a victim or that an apology is offered, they may indicate a willingness to accept both sides as perpetrators of hostilities. This change in perceptions may indicate a willingness to engage in reciprocal apologies, a possible step toward reconciliation.
Some Closing Comments
We view our focus on peaceful coexistence as being both distinct and, at the same time, closely related to existing theories of conflict resolution and reconciliation. It is distinct from the conflict resolution approach because of the emphases on the permanence of groups and group history, the role of fear and concern for group security as the foundation of intractable conflict, and the emphasis on establishing peaceful coexistence. Our approach is distinct from theories of reconciliation and forgiveness (Govier, 2002 Nadler & Liviatan, 2004; Staub & Pearlman, 2001) because it avoids delineating perpetrator and victim, and it does not deal with the conceptually difficult concepts of apology and forgiveness. Our experience has shown that enduring groups involved in intractable conflicts have little desire to reconcile differences with the out-group or view the out-group as a victim. Apology for the acts of ancestors is viewed as hearsay that besmirches the reputation of those ancestors who often stand as heroes of the in-group.
Another point of departure is that conflict resolution and reconciliation can be viewed as end-states or solutions to difficulties in the relationship between groups. It is unclear what occurs after resolution and reconciliation are reached. Our presentation of peaceful coexistence is that it is an ongoing process that must be constantly nurtured and supported. Peaceful coexistence is not a cure to intergroup problems such as conflict and confrontation, but rather a condition that allows groups to exist and interact with each other. This difference is somewhat anticipated by Nadler's (2002) division of reconciliation into socioemotional and instrumental approaches. Socioemotional reconciliation is an end state that is achieved when apology is (p.441) followed by forgiveness. However, instrumental reconciliation, like peaceful coexistence, is a long process that involves contact, cooperation, acceptance, and understanding that creates conditions for conflict resolution and socioemotional reconciliation.
Despite these differences, our approach is very closely related to these other perspectives. On the surface, many of the points that we emphasize are already being incorporated into existing theories. For example, several investigators (Hornsey & Hogg, 2000b have recognized that protecting the identity of the in-group may be necessary to deal with some types of conflict, but they have not clearly defined the conditions that are most conducive to this approach. And to be fair to the reconciliation literature, investigators have explicitly pointed out the difficulties of designating victim and perpetrator (Nadler & Liviatan, 2004. There is, then, already convergence in approaches to conflict. However, the relation between the peaceful coexistence and other perspectives on conflict resolution runs even deeper. A perplexing question that dogs the literature on intergroup relations is why groups in conflict should have any interest in reconciliation or conflict resolution. Why should a group wish to apologize or forgive an enemy, especially in the case of intractable conflicts when group structure and history is related to the conflict? And a related question involves how to entice enemies to engage in cooperative contact. Our answer to these questions comes from the perspective that peaceful coexistence enhances in-group security and reduces fear. We suggest that these goals can be used to encourage enemies to engage in contact and tolerate differences. The challenge is to demonstrate that peaceful coexistence will satisfy these goals without threatening group identity. We, therefore, suggest that the road toward lasting conflict resolution and reconciliation passes through the establishment of peaceful coexistence. Hence peaceful coexistence may be viewed as a goal for reducing intergroup violence and a precondition for reconciliation and conflict resolution.
We, therefore, propose that investigators focus on creating a paradigm that recognizes the unique characteristics of conflicts between enduring groups, such as ethnic groups. The approach should incorporate the role of history, concern for group security, and fear of the out-group as factors leading to entrenched hatred, and examine the long term, as well as short-term, effects of conflict resolution. General theories should also explicate the relationship between peaceful coexistence, conflict resolution, and reconciliation, and embrace the position that the causes of conflict and the path toward resolution may vary depending on the situation and characteristics of the protagonists.
In closing, we would like to make two points. First, our experience with peace programs revealed that the social landscape is populated with opportunities to study conflict between enduring groups. The programs are wonderfully varied, a situation that offers the opportunity to study a wide range of variables (p.442) and to test for generalizability of results. These programs are a candy shop for investigators with nearly every conceivable variable already being manipulated. Given this situation, it is somewhat surprising to find relatively little interaction between the academic theory and research and the applied programs. Our experience revealed several possible reasons for this divide. From the applied side, there is often a suspicion of academic research that may be viewed as being designed to uncover flaws in the programs without offering concrete suggestions in return. Program funding, whether from private sources or public ones, is often dependent on demonstrating positive outcomes. From the academic side, the programs are often viewed as a methodological quagmire lacking experimental control, random selection of participants, and a lack of theoretical basis for specific activities. These different perspectives cannot be ignored, but they should not be viewed as insurmountable obstacles for building bridges and dialogue between the two sides that can greatly enrich and expand both.
The second point echoes Benjamin Franklin's advice, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Intergroup conflict is notoriously resistant to change once it becomes violent. Fear feeds upon itself; hostility and hatred become ingrained in the history of groups. Although efforts at identifying approaches to reducing intergroup hostility are of great value, equal, if not more, attention should be directed toward the prevention of intergroup hatred. Efforts toward this goal are likely to be far more effective and successful than attempts to reduce intractable hatred and conflict. Social psychology research has identified many of the conditions that are likely to lead to violence between enduring groups. These precipitating conditions include fear, competition, internal threats to in-group security and identity (poverty, change), and uncertainty. The world is filled with examples of “violent conflict in the making.” For example, many European countries are experiencing rapid increases in the influx of immigrants, setting the stage for conflicts between immigrant and host groups. In many locations such as Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, indigenous groups are seeking to recapture their identities, thereby sowing the seeds for confrontation with other groups in the regions. Indeed, the greatest value of social-psychological theories of intergroup relations may be in serving as an early warning system to guide prevention rather than suggesting ways to deal with victims.
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