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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Mar 5;367(1589):717-30. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0293.

Social cognition in members of conflict groups: behavioural and neural responses in Arabs, Israelis and South Americans to each other's misfortunes.

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  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02130, USA. ebruneau@mit.edu

Abstract

In contexts of cultural conflict, people delegitimize the other group's perspective and lose compassion for the other group's suffering. These psychological biases have been empirically characterized in intergroup settings, but rarely in groups involved in active conflict. Similarly, the basic brain networks involved in recognizing others' narratives and misfortunes have been identified, but how these brain networks are modulated by intergroup conflict is largely untested. In the present study, we examined behavioural and neural responses in Arab, Israeli and South American participants while they considered the pain and suffering of individuals from each group. Arabs and Israelis reported feeling significantly less compassion for each other's pain and suffering (the 'conflict outgroup'), but did not show an ingroup bias relative to South Americans (the 'distant outgroup'). In contrast, the brain regions that respond to others' tragedies showed an ingroup bias relative to the distant outgroup but not the conflict outgroup, particularly for descriptions of emotional suffering. Over all, neural responses to conflict group members were qualitatively different from neural responses to distant group members. This is the first neuroimaging study to examine brain responses to others' suffering across both distant and conflict groups, and provides a first step towards building a foundation for the biological basis of conflict.

PMID:
22271787
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3260847
Free PMC Article
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