International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

The Needs Based Model of Reconciliation in the South African context: A first investigation

Ines Meyer, University of Cape Town

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: University of Cape Town
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

The study is a first investigation of the applicability of the Needs Based Model of Reconciliation (NBMR) in South Africa. The NBMR postulates that for successful post-conflict reconciliation the emotional needs of perpetrator and victim groups have to be satisfied. While perpetrators have a need to be accepted by the victim group, the victim group desires empowerment. A South African sample was divided into perpetrators (n = 365) and victims (n = 419). White South Africans as the instigators and beneficiaries of South Africa’s apartheid system were classified as perpetrators and members of all other race groups as victims. The results provided partial support for the NBMR. As hypothesised White South Africans had a higher need for acceptance than empowerment, and the reverse was found for the victim group. Whites were more willing to reconcile after their need for acceptance had been addressed through a fictitious media statement. Addressing the need for empowerment, however, did not increase the willingness to reconcile in the victim group. Yet, this group was overall more open to reconciliation. It is argued that rather than contradicting the NBMR, the results for the victim group could mean that existing South African legislation, such as affirmative action policy, already addresses victims’ need for empowerment. This implies that for reconciliation in South Africa to succeed it is imperative to also put continuous effort into making White South Africans feel accepted. The study hints that adequate communication from those holding political power might contribute to achieving this goal.