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Am Psychol. 2003 Mar;58(3):182-92.

Dangerous ideas. Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict.

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Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, University of Pennsylvania, St. Leonard's Court, Suite 305, 3819-33 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The toll in death, suffering, and displacement caused by conflicts engaging groups defined by ethnicity, nationality, religion, or other social identities has reached staggering proportions over the past decade. With expertise in research and intervention, psychologists have critical contributions to make to more fully understanding and more effectively confronting this distressing global phenomenon. The authors focus on the parallels between the core beliefs of individuals and the collective worldviews of groups that may operate to trigger or constrain violent struggles. On the basis of a review of relevant literatures, 5 belief domains--superiority, injustice, vulnerability, distrust, and helplessness--are identified as particularly important for further study.

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