Exposure to political violence and political extremism: A stress-based process

Daphna Canetti, Brian J. Hall, Carmit Rapaport, Carly Wayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to political violence can lead to various political and psychological outcomes. Using the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a natural laboratory, we explore the way in which exposure to conflict violence leads to changes in citizens' political attitudes and behavior, offering a model for a stress-based process of political extremism. This model encapsulates three basic components in a causal chain leading to political extremism: exposure to political violence, psychological distress, and enhanced perceptions of threat. We find that prolonged exposure to political violence increases psychological distress, which in turn evokes stronger perceptions of threat that foment political attitudes eschewing compromise and favoring militarism. This causal chain fuels a destructive cycle of violence that is hard to break. Understanding these psychological and political consequences of exposure to political violence can help to shed light on the barriers that too often stymie peacemaking efforts and contribute to the deterioration of intractable conflicts around the globe. Thus, this review offers insights applicable to conflict zones around the world and suggests policy implications for therapeutic intervention and potential pathways to conflict resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Psychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Conflict resolution
  • PTSD
  • Political extremism
  • Political violence
  • Psychological distress
  • Threat perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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