Harmed by Our Protection: Exposure to Political Violence and Political Preferences in the Range of Fire

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The reality of modern warfare means that civilians are increasingly exposed to prolonged conflict violence. This exposure can lead to a host of psychological and political outcomes. Using the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a natural laboratory, I demonstrate a stress-based process of political extremism whereby exposure to conflict violence leads to changes in civilians' political attitudes and behavior. I find that through a mediating process that involves psychological distress and perceptions of threat, prolonged exposure to political violence increases harmful defensive mechanisms---that foment political attitudes eschewing compromise and favoring aggressive foreign policies. Additionally, in situations of prolonged conflict, exposed individuals develop various coping mechanisms to reduce stress and threat, including a strong adherence to conflict ideologies like the ``ethos of conflict.'' This helps explain too why societies so often descend into cycles of violence in spite of their overwhelming costs and losses. Understanding the way in which distress and threat motivate adherence to ethos and the resultant militant attitudes toward the conflict out-group can help shed light on the barriers that too often stymie peacemaking efforts and contribute to the deterioration of intractable conflicts around the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Social Psychology Perspective on The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Subtitle of host publicationCelebrating the Legacy of Daniel Bar-Tal
EditorsKeren Sharvit, Eran Halperin
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-24841-7
StatePublished - 2016


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