The micro-motives of intergroup aggression: A case study in Israel.


This dissertation has two main goals. First, it seeks to identify the micro-motives behind individual support for and engagement in aggression against members of an outgroup. It provides evidence that these motives stem from a particular set of beliefs individuals hold regarding their ingroup and the outgroup. It shows that in Israel, individuals who have “group justifying beliefs” are much more prone to support or engage in aggression against an outgroup, even when controlling for the effect of other, more traditional explanators of intergroup violence. After defining these beliefs and presenting an index to measure them (the Group Justification Index, or GJI ), the first part of the dissertation provides evidence that these beliefs predict support for or engagement in aggression against an outgroup. It also highlights three mechanisms behind the relationship between these beliefs and aggression, showing that individuals with group justifying beliefs are more prone to 1) see ambiguous behavior by the outgroup as purposeful aggression directed towards their ingroup, 2) engage in higher levels of zero-sum thinking, and 3) justify aggression against the outgroup than are those who do not hold these beliefs.

Second, this dissertation deals directly with the practicalities of intergroup conflict resolution. Building on the results in the first section of the dissertation, the second and third sections provide evidence that individuals with group justifying beliefs in Israel—those prone to engage in and support aggression against an outgroup—tend to react negatively to positive, humanizing contact with the outgroup. This suggests that for many of these individuals, an approach to conflict resolution based on the “contact hypothesis” will not yield desired results. The final chapter of the disser- tation delves deeper to identify key characteristics and experiences that explain why individuals with group justifying beliefs respond in this counter-intuitive manner. The dissertation concludes with a brief discussion of the import of these findings for the study of intergroup conflict and for conflict resolution. Together, these three studies highlight the importance of individual beliefs in motivating individual acts of aggression against members of an outgroup. They also suggest means for improving attempts at conflict resolution.