Publications by topic

Four Processes that Drive Intergroup Conflict and Discrimination:

Motivated Reasoning

Putting Neuroscience to Work for Peace

The Social Psychology of Intractable Contracts, 2015

Emile Bruneau


Through his years of scholarship, Daniel Bar-Tal has provided the scientific community with an articulation of some of the key psychological processes that underlie protracted intergroup conflicts, and a roadmap to bringing about change through peace education. One challenge for building on the foundation laid by Daniel Bar-Tal is determining how to measure the biases that he has articulated. Measures that accurately capture the biases that drive intergroup conflict would enable an evidence-based approach to determining which interventions best chip away at these monolithic psychological forces. There are a number of reasons why applying theory to practice is particularly challenging in the context of intergroup conflict. First, biases such as “delegitimization” are complex social processes that may be difficult to capture using conventional measures. Second, delegitimization may be hard to admit. Above and beyond the typical challenge of getting past people’s desire to appear fair and open-minded, groups in conflict have strategic concerns that may also come into play (i.e., wanting their group to be perceived as the “good guys” by the international community), adding group-presentation biases to existing self-presentation biases. At the same time, some people might feel pressured to respond in the opposite direction, exaggerating their antipathy towards the enemy so as not to be viewed as a “sympathizer.” Together, these undermine the accuracy and therefore usefulness of explicit measures of processes like delegitimization. One potential solution to this problem is the use of measures that are sophisticated enough to capture complex social processes, and also less sensitive to self-presentation biases. The recent technological advance of functional neuroimaging provides a tool that is theoretically ideal in many ways for just this purpose. In this chapter I will explore the ways in which functional neuroimaging has been used to examine biases in the context of ideological conflicts, and describe potential routes of future investigation.

Attitudes Towards the Outgroup are Predicted by Activity in the Precuneus in Arabs and Israelis

Neuroimage, 2010

Emile Bruneau, Rebecca Saxe


The modern socio-political climate is defined by conflict between ethnic, religious and political groups: Bosnians and Serbs, Tamils and Singhalese, Irish Catholics and Protestants, Israelis and Arabs. One impediment to the resolution of these conflicts is the psychological bias that members of each group harbor towards each other. These biases, and their neural bases, are likely different from the commonly studied biases towards racial outgroups. We presented Arab, Israeli and control individuals with statements about the Middle East from the perspective of the ingroup or the outgroup. Subjects rated how ‘reasonable’ each statement was, during fMRI imaging. Increased activation in the precuneus (PC) while reading pro-outgroup vs. pro-ingroup statements correlated strongly with both explicit and implicit measures of negative attitudes towards the outgroup; other brain regions that were involved in reasoning about emotionally-laden information did not show this pattern.

What Predicts Anti-Roma Prejudice? Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Everyday Sentiments About the Roma

Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2017

Gabor Orosz, Emile Bruneau, Linda R. Tropp, Nora Sebestyen, Istvan Toth-Kiraly, Beata Bothe


The present research focused on two primary goals: (a) identifying the content of sentiments about the Roma to which Hungarians are exposed during everyday family conversations, and (b) determining which types of everyday sentiments about the Roma most strongly predict Hungarian respondents’ anti-Roma prejudice. Content analyzing open-ended responses from a representative sample of Hungarians (N 5 505), we found that more than 76% of the respondents reported being exposed to negative stereotypes about the Roma, 27% to threats posed by Roma, and 16% to overt dehumanization of Roma; additionally more than 20% reported hearing no positive sentiments about the Roma in everyday family conversations. We then examined which negative and positive sentiments most strongly predicted respondents’ anti-Roma prejudice (using measures of social distance and modern racism). Higher social distance scores were predicted by a lack of positive sentiments, whereas lower social distance scores were most strongly predicted by unambiguously positive sentiments expressed during family conversations. Higher modern racism scores were further predicted by sentiments expressing dehumanization, threat, and violence against Roma. Together, these results attest to the extremity of anti-Roma sentiments expressed regularly by Hungarians, and suggest how exposure to specific sentiments may foster anti-Roma hostility. Moreover, these findings provide guidance regarding the specific negative anti-Roma sentiments that should be combated to enhance the effectiveness of anti-prejudice interventions

In-Group/Out-Group Distinctions — Neuroscience Findings and Upshot

University of Pennsylvania ScholarlyCommons

Emile Bruneau


This White Volume assesses U.S. long term national security challenges, employing a global perspective that accounts for the changing political, economic, social, and psychological profiles of populations, and the rapid changes they experience in a globally connected information environment. It addresses many of the key national security challenges identified by LTG Flynn in the Preface. The collection of essays explores future population-centric national security challenges through the lens of the latest research from the social, neurobiological, and complexity sciences. The papers emphasize “enduring” long term theses that are focused on the interactions of populations and their environments. They are not U.S.-centric, but multi-perspective and examine underlying long term phenomena. The target audiences are planners, operators, and policy makers. With them in mind, the articles are intentionally kept short and written to stand alone. All the contributors have done their best to make their articles easily accessible.