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Overcoming EvilGenocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism$
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Ervin Staub

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382044

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382044.001.0001

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Learning by Doing in Individuals and Groups

Learning by Doing in Individuals and Groups

The Evolution of Extreme Violence

(p.166) 6 Learning by Doing in Individuals and Groups
Overcoming Evil

Ervin Staub

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the evolution of extreme violence by individuals and groups. People “learn by doing”, and they change as a result of what they do. Individuals and the whole group change as they begin to harm members of another group. They justify their actions by increasing devaluation of that group and by coming to believe that moral and humane values that protect people's well-being do not apply to members of the devalued group. This evolution may end in a reversal of morality, killing the other becoming the right thing to do. A psychological and behavioral evolution—steps along a continuum of destruction—can lead to extreme violence. Perpetrators may be motivated by their commitment to cause (ideology and enmity to the other) and comrades. Leaders emerge and evolve as they respond to the group's (and their own) needs, as well as serve their own interests, promoting scapegoating and destructive ideologies.

Keywords:   group violence, mass violence, group identity, group conflict, evolution of violence, genocide

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