Tag Archives: intergroup

Anti-government protests and mirror-image perceptions in Thailand

2010 political protests in Bangkok, Thailand

By Kevin R. Betts

Clashes in Bangkok between anti-government protestors and the Thai government appeared subdued this weekend after over two months of violent confrontations. Integrative agreements in protest situations like this are often impeded by mirror-image perceptions that opposing parties hold about one another. For example, a Thai government official was quoted saying about the protestors, “They don’t want a peace offer…They don’t want a peaceful resolution to this.” Mirroring this criticism, a CNN reporter claimed that the protestors did in fact wish to see the conflict end, and blamed military forces for much of the violence. In short, both parties claimed that the other was preventing the conflict’s resolution.

At least in part, many conflicts have been prolonged due to mirror-image perceptions between opposing factions. Shamir and Shikaki (2002) provide evidence that parties to the century old Israeli-Palestinian conflict both consider the violent behavior of the other side to be terrorism, while simultaneously seeing the violent behavior of their own side as justified. Similarly, De Dreu, Nauta, and Van de Vliert (1995) provide evidence that professional negotiators, governmental decision makers, and organizational consultants view their own conflict behaviors as more constructive than those of their opponents. From these examples, it seems worthwhile that when attempting to resolve new and old conflicts, we start by examining potentially reciprocal viewpoints of opposing factions. In many cases, both sides may be motivated to reach an integrative agreement, but unable to successfully communicate this intent to their opposition.

Read more:

State of emergency in Thailand may be lifted

Anti-government protests in Thailand

Shamir, J., & Shikaki, K. (2002). Self-serving perceptions of terrorism among Israelis and Palestinians. Political   Psychology, 23, 537-557.

De Dreu, C.K.W., Nauta, A., & Van de Vliert, E. (1995). Self-serving evaluations of conflict behavior and escalation of the dispute. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25, 2049-2066.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

Guns, race and evolution.

The recent shooting of American soldiers by a Muslim American military psychiatrist at Fort Hood made many Muslim Americans fear that this single attack in Texas will undermine the progress that has been made in relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans. They are worried that the outgroup homogeneity would lead people to make the false assumption that a Muslim man committing a crime is representative of other Muslims. Their worries may have a good reason.

Humans are a tribal species. The social psychological literature on intergroup relations is rich and diverse. For example, studies demonstrated that people make spontaneous ingroup-outgroup categorization and favor ingroup over outgroup members in a wide variety of situations. Furthermore, people have a specific stance with respect to outgroups and intergroup situations. When intergroup relations are salient, people readily show prejudice against members of outgroups and find it easy to morally justify  intergroup aggression and violence. The traditional explanation of these phenomena focuses on people’s ingroup psychology. That is, being a highly social and cooperative species, humans likely possess tendencies to exalt the ingroup. As a byproduct of favoring ingroups, people will show indifference toward, or worse, a dislike for outgroups. Recently, Mark Van Vugt and Justin H. Park offered another explanation that treated negativity toward outgroups as psychological tendencies –warfare and disease avoidance. More specifically, people are more likely to infrahumanize (e.g. denying outgroup member’s typical human qualities such as politeness and civility) members of outgroups, particularly when these outgroups constitute a coalitional treat. Moreover, for people within any given culture, certain outgroups may appear especially foreign with respect to disease-relevant domains, such as food preparation and hygiene practices. Because each culture has developed (via cultural evolution) its own set of practices for preventing infection, cultures with different practices – especially in the domains of food preparation and hygiene – may be perceived as posing disease threats. Thus, the perception of outgroups, particularly those that are subjectively foreign, may activate disease avoidance responses.

The evolutionary framework also makes various suggestions for interactions to improve intergroup relations, such as altering the perceptual cues that elicit threat responses toward particular outgroups,  or changing the specific cognitive and affective responses toward outgroups.

In the wake of Fort Hood: Prejudice is not the answer.


Mark Van Vugt & Justin H. Park. (2009). Guns, Germs, and Sex: How Evolution Shaped Our Intergroup Psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3,927-938.