Publications by topic

Three Interventions to Reduce Intergroup Conflict and Discrimination:

Educational Interventions

Reducing Islamophobia: An assessment of psychological mechanisms that underlie anti-Islamophobia media interventions

Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 2022

Boaz Hameiri, Samantha Moore-Berg, Emily Falk, Emile Bruneau


Western countries have witnessed increased hostility towards Muslims among individuals, and structurally in the ways that the media covers stories related to Islam/Muslims and in policies that infringe on the rights of Muslim communities. In response, practitioners have created media interventions that aim to reduce Islamophobia. However, it is unclear what causal effects these interventions have on reducing Islamophobia. Here, we test the effects of 11 media interventions developed by practitioners with an intervention tournament among U.S. samples. In Study 1, we identified three videos that most effectively reduced Islamophobia both immediately after watching and 1 month later. In Studies 2–4, we examined the psychological mechanisms of these successful videos and found an indirect effect of the interventions on reduced support for anti-Muslim policies through recognition of media bias against Muslims. This research highlights that drawing attention to structural biases, including biased media coverage of Muslims, is one potential strategy for ameliorating Islamophobia.

Translating social science for peace: Benefits, challenges, and recommendations

Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 2022

Samantha L. Moore-Berg, Karen Bernstein, Roman A. Gallardo, Boaz Hameiri, Rebecca Littman, Siobhan O’Neil, Michael H. Pasek


There is a growing push within the social sciences to conduct translational science that not only advances theory but also achieves real world impact. The goals of this paper are (a) to encourage scholars to engage in translational science by conducting research that responds to pressing social challenges, and (b) to provide concrete recommendations on how to incorporate such practices into their research programs. To do this, we bring together perspectives of academics and practitioners who have experience merging science with practice. We begin by defining what translational science is, describing the benefits of engaging in translational science for peace and conflict studies, and highlighting past research that has done this successfully. Next, we describe various aspects of conducting translational science, such as how researchers can partner with nonacademic stakeholders to create social impact and advance scientific theory, and how they can disseminate findings for public impact. We also address key challenges researchers might face when conducting translational research and provide practical tips that social scientists can use to effectively engage in what we coined the “Bruneauian” approach for how to address such challenges. Specifically, we focus on the skills needed for study design and deployment, how researchers can sensitively interact with vulnerable communities, statistical and methodological considerations, logistical challenges, and how to develop relationships with practitioners. Finally, we conclude with a practitioner’s perspective on how to foster these types of relationships.

Intervention Tournaments: An Overview of Concept, Design, and Implementation

Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2021

Boaz Hameiri, Samantha Moore-Berg


A large portion of research in the social sciences is devoted to combating societal and social problems, such as prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup conflict, with interventions. However, these interventions are often developed based on the theories and/or intuitions of those who developed them and evaluated in isolation without comparing their efficacy to other interventions. Here, we make the case for an experimental design that addresses such issues: an intervention tournament, i.e., a study that compares several different interventions against a single control and utilizes the same standardized outcome measures during assessment and participants drawn from the same population. We begin by highlighting the utility of intervention tournaments as an approach that complements other, more commonly used, approaches to addressing societal issues. We then describe various approaches to intervention tournaments, which include crowdsourced, curated, and in-house developed intervention tournaments, with their unique characteristics. Finally, we discuss practical recommendations and key design insights for conducting such research, based on the existing literature. These include considerations of intervention tournament deployment, characteristics of included interventions, statistical analysis and reporting, study design, longitudinal and underlying psychological mechanism assessment, and theoretical ramifications.

Neural polarization and routes to depolarization

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020

Samantha L. Moore-Berg, Jacob M. Parelman, Yphtach Lelkes, Emily B. Falk


Political polarization has intensified in the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election, with liberal and conservative politicians hurling insults at one another, journalists highlighting ways in which Americans are deeply divided, and parts of the general American public condoning violence if their side does not win the upcoming election. Likewise, in countries around the world, political extremists are gaining political power, the media has zeroed in on division, and individuals perceive deepening political divides. Within this context, Leong et al. (1) report evidence in PNAS for “neural polarization,” or divergent brain activity between self-identified liberals and conservatives, while watching media clips about a salient political issue (immigration). The team focuses on the DMPFC (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), a brain region that helps people navigate the social world, interpret narratives, and understand others’ mental states and attributions (2). Those with stronger partisan identities had more similar DMPFC activity in response to media coverage of immigration, relative to other members of their own group, and were subsequently more likely to change their attitudes to even more partisan positions. Thus, these findings highlight ways in which strongly identifying with a particular group (such as a political party or position) might color the ways we interpret new information, and the ways we process incoming information may reinforce our existing identities.

Giving the Underdog a Leg Up: A Counternarrative of Nonviolent Resistance Improves Sustained Third-Party Support of a Disempowered Group

Social, Psychological and Personality Science, 2017

Emile Bruneau, Daniel Lane, Muniba Saleem


In the current work, we experimentally examined the effect of exposure to a narrative of nonviolent resistance on third-party attitudes toward and support for a disempowered group involved in asymmetric conflict. Across three experiments, we found that Americans exposed to a brief video about Palestinian nonviolent resistance consistently registered more favorable attitudes toward Palestinians than people who watched a film trailer either unrelated to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict or a trailer to a Palestinian-made film about sympathetic Palestinians violently opposing Israelis. Americans’ attitudes toward Palestinians and behavior supporting Palestinian collective action persisted weeks after exposure to nonviolent resistance and were mediated by decreased perceptions that Palestinians are inherently violent. Importantly, positive attitudes toward Palestinians did not result in increased negativity toward Israelis. These data show that exposure to nonviolent resistance can have lasting effects on third-party attitudes and behavior toward an underdog/disempowered group, without driving partisanship.

Minding the Gap: Narrative Descriptions About Mental States Attenuate Parochial Empathy

PLOS ONE, 2015

Emile G. Bruneau, Mina Cikara, Rebecca Saxe


In three experiments, we examine parochial empathy (feeling more empathy for in-group than out-group members) across novel group boundaries, and test whether we can mitigate parochial empathy with brief narrative descriptions. In the absence of individual information, participants consistently report more empathy for members of their own assigned group than a competitive out-group. However, individualized descriptions of in-group and out-group targets significantly reduce parochial empathy by interfering with encoding of targets’ group membership. Finally, the descriptions that most effectively decrease parochial empathy are those that describe targets’ mental states. These results support the role of individualizing information in ameliorating parochial empathy, suggest a mechanism for their action, and show that descriptions emphasizing targets’ mental states are particularly effective.

A Collective Blame Hypocrisy Intervention Enduringly Reduces Hostility Towards Muslims

Nature Human Behavior, 2019

Emile G. Bruneau, Nour S. Kteily & Ana Urbiola


Hostility towards outgroups contributes to costly intergroup conflict. Here we test an intervention to reduce hostility towards Muslims, a frequently targeted outgroup. Our ‘collective blame hypocrisy’ intervention highlights the hypocrisy involved in the tendency for people to collectively blame outgroup but not ingroup members for blameworthy actions of individual group members. Using both within-subject and between-subject comparisons in a preregistered longitudinal study in Spain, we find that our intervention reduces collective blame of Muslims and downstream anti-Muslim sentiments relative to a matched control condition and that the effects of the intervention persist one month and also one year later. We replicate the benefits of the intervention in a second study. The effects are mediated by reductions in collective blame and moderated by individual differences in preference for consistency. Together, these data illustrate that the collective blame hypocrisy intervention enduringly reduces harmful intergroup attitudes associated with conflict escalation, particularly among those who value consistency in themselves and others.

Interventions Highlighting Hypocrisy Reduce Collective Blame of Muslims for Individual Acts of Violence and Assuage Anti-Muslim Hostility

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2018

Emile Bruneau, Nour Kteily, and Emily Falk


Collectively blaming groups for the actions of individuals can license vicarious retribution. Acts of terrorism by Muslim extremists against innocents, and the spikes in anti-Muslim hate crimes against innocent Muslims that follow, suggest that reciprocal bouts of collective blame can spark cycles of violence. How can this cycle be short-circuited? After establishing a link between collective blame of Muslims and anti-Muslim attitudes and behavior, we used an “interventions tournament” to identify a successful intervention (among many that failed). The “winning” intervention reduced collective blame of Muslims by highlighting hypocrisy in the ways individuals collectively blame Muslims—but not other groups (White Americans, Christians)—for individual group members’ actions. After replicating the effect in an independent sample, we demonstrate that a novel interactive activity that isolates the psychological mechanism amplifies the effectiveness of the collective blame hypocrisy intervention and results in downstream reductions in anti-Muslim attitudes and anti-Muslim behavior.