International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

1S Experimental Existential Approaches to Intergroup Conflict and Violence

(Session Organizer) Pelin Kesebir, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; (Chair) Pelin Kesebir, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Research Area: Political conflict, violence, and crisis

This panel brings together scholars from the U.S., Israel, and Europe to present the most recent insights in the experimental existential analysis of intergroup conflict. Drawing from terror management theory and research, the panelists will examine how the uniquely human awareness of mortality contributes to the creation and escalation of intergroup conflict and violence. Pelin Kesebir will provide an overview of the recent developments in terror management theory that illuminate the psychological processes leading to self-perpetuating cycles of intergroup conflict and violence. She will conclude with presentation of research demonstrating how these sometimes unsavory effects of existential anxiety can be reversed to discourage support for violence. Gilad Hirschberger will then focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and present experimental research that examines the effects of mortality thoughts on justice concerns. He will show that existential anxiety intensifies support for intergroup violence for reasons pertaining to justice, regardless of whether such violence serves a practical purpose. Finally, Mark Dechesne will present field studies that extrapolate from mortality salience experiments to describe how in various contexts, exposure to the threat of terrorism affects intergroup attitudes and the willingness to cooperate in ways that are inimical to peace. As a whole, the panel will expose the audience to different instances of how terror management theory can be fruitfully utilized to shed light on the psychological underpinnings of intergroup conflict and violence.