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Extending the Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation to ambivalent contexts: The emotional needs of adversaries who simultaneously serve as both victims and perpetrators

Final Report Summary - NBMR AND AMBIVALENCE (Extending the Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation to ambivalent contexts: The emotional needs of adversaries who simultaneously serve as both victims and perpetrators)

Many, if not most, conflicts are "dual"; namely, characterized by mutual transgressions. The purpose of the present research project, which examined both interpersonal and intergroup conflicts, was to understand the dynamic between "dual" conflicting parties and develop strategies to improve it.
The first part of the project sought to identify the psychological needs of parties involved in dual conflicts, as compared to the needs of parties involved in conflicts with clear-cut roles of victims and perpetrators. According to the Needs-based Model of Reconciliation (NBMR, Shnabel & Nadler, 2008), the theoretical framework that guided the present project, in such clear-cut conflicts victims experience the need to restore their identity as agentic (i.e. competent and in control of outcomes) whereas perpetrators need to restore their moral identity. The research conducted within the present project (SimanTov-Nachlieli & Shnabel, 2014) revealed that "duals" experience heightened need to restore both their agency (similar to victims) and their morality (similar to perpetrators). In terms of behavior, like victims, duals' need for agency translates into anti-social, vengeful behavior against the other party; unlike perpetrators, however, their need for morality fails to translate into corresponding pro-social behavior. Put differently, duals' need for agency is prioritized over their need for morality, leading to a cycle of mutual anti-social behavior. This finding, which suggests that the experience of victimization is psychologically more profound than the experience of perpetration, is consistent with previous work showing that parties involved in dual conflicts often compete over the victim status (e.g. Shnabel, Halabi, & Noor, 2013).
The second part of the project focused on developing strategies to increase pro-social tendencies among dual conflicting parties. The logic of the NBMR suggests that restoring the positive identities of conflicting parties should increase their willingness to reconcile with each other. While previous research within the NBMR's framework focused on identity-restoration through a reciprocal exchange of messages between victims and perpetrators, the present project examined the effects of self-restoration of positive identity. A series of experiments demonstrated that affirming duals' agency (i.e. reassuring their identity as competent and influential through short reading/writing exercises) increased their willingness to relinquish power for the sake of moral considerations, which, in turn, led to more pro-social behavior towards the other party. These findings were replicated in highly diverse contexts (conflicts between siblings and colleagues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, conflicts between rival universities, etc.).
Additionally, the present research project examined the conciliatory influences of affirmation of dual conflicting parties' victim status (SimanTov-Nachlieli, Shnabel, & Halabi, 2015) and identity-affirmation through third-party interventions in both interpersonal (Shnabel, Nadler, & Dovidio, 2014) and intergroup (Harth & Shnabel, 2015) conflicts. All this research is summarized in two review papers, which have been recently accepted to the European Review of Social Psychology and Current Directions in Psychological Science. These papers provide a comprehensive, cutting-edge perspective on reconciliation processes and may be of interest for both theoreticians and practitioners (e.g. conflict mediators and group facilitators).