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Doing the Right Thing Has Power: The Role of Moral Exemplars for Intergroup Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Post-Conflict Societies

Understanding the causes and consequences of intergroup conflict has been the major objective of social sciences in general and social psychology in particular. To this end, a large body of socio-psychological research has contributed to the understanding of intergroup conflict and how to reduce it. However, what has been less researched is the question of post-conflict intergroup reconciliation. In addition, investigation of interventions which could facilitate restoration of intergroup relations is scarce. We know more about psychological and other barriers impeding reconciliation and very little about ways how to facilitate it.
Divisive social categorizations, differentiations and biased perceptions are not only more pronounced in conflict settings but also act as major barriers to sustainable intergroup reconciliation. Theory and research in social psychology have shown that people tend to perceive ‘others’ as less heterogenous, inherently bad, unchangeable and less moral whereas we perceive the own group as more superior, better and more moral. In this talk I will address the question of how to overcome such exclusive, categorical, dehumanized and simplistic views of other groups in (post)conflict settings and consequently facilitate positive change and intergroup reconciliation. I will present data from recent research conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Poland which shows that increasing perceptions of outgroup moral variability - hence an acknowledgment that the other side is not hegemonic and fundamentally immoral - is an important precondition and facilitator of intergroup reconciliation processes.
Bio: Sabina Čehajić-Clancy is a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Stanford. She received her PhD in social psychology from the University of Sussex in 2008. Her dissertation was awarded by the Society for the Psychological Studies of Social Issues (SPSSI) and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. She works in the field of intergroup relations, more specifically on reconciliation in post-conflict societies, group-based emotions of guilt and shame, moral responsibility, dehumanization, and victimized identity. Her current research focuses on: 1))the effects of apology and reparation offers on forgiveness; 2. the role of moral exemplars in reconciliation processes; and 3) the effects of positive emotions on social identity. Currently she is working at the SSST University ( as an Associate Professor teaching courses in political psychology, methods and intergroup conflict and directing the Balkan Institute for Conflict Resolution, Responsibility and Reconciliation. She also works as a consultant for various NGO’s, such as UNICEF, UNDP, Post-conflict Research Centre, Save the Children UK, and USAID, designing and evaluating reconciliation-oriented interventions.



Friday, January 16, 2015. 12:00 PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208


CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies




Open to Stanford affiliates. RSVP requested.