Prejudice is one of the most studied topics in social psychology, and much of this work has an explicit applied focus on prejudice reduction. Yet, we have a long road ahead in designing and rigorously assessing the effectiveness of evidence-based prejudice reduction interventions in real-world settings. In a review of prejudice reduction literature, Paluck and Green (2009) showed that less than half the studies in this area assessed the causal impact of prejudice reduction interventions, and of these, most were conducted in laboratory settings. Of the field experimental studies (11% of all studies reviewed), the vast majority were conducted in schools. Moreover, the research in this area relies heavily on student populations in Western countries (Henry, 2008). Consequently, we know little about prejudice reduction in conflict-affected countries, and in contexts of ongoing violence or its aftermath.
In the past decade, however, important theoretical and empirical developments in social psychology have started to address the nature of intergroup relations in conflict-affected countries, broadening the scope of interventions from prejudice reduction to more generally improving intergroup relations and promoting reconciliation. Premises of influential social psychological theories, such as social identity theory (see Chapter 3) or contact hypothesis (see Chapter 6), have been tested and extended to a number of ongoing and post-conflict settings including Bosnia, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and so on (e.g., Čehajić, Brown, & Castano, 2008; Kanazayire, Licata, Melotte, Dusingizemungu, & Azzi, 2014). In addition, new concepts and approaches have been developed to capture psychological and social processes unique to contexts of violent conflict (e.g., Chapter 26 in this title; Bar-Tal, 2007; Kelman, 1990; Staub, 1989, 2011). Exciting and productive research programs have emerged on intergroup reconciliation (e.g., Shnabel & Nadler, 2008; Staub, 2011), victimhood (e.g., Noor, Brown, Gonzalez, Manzi, & Lewis, 2012; Vollhardt, 2012; Vollhardt & Bilali, 2015), intergroup forgiveness (e.g., Tam et al., 2007), and intergroup apologies (e.g., Blatz, Schumann, & Ross, 2009). These new developments have practical implications, as the principles and findings can guide interventions to promote reconciliation and reduce prejudice in conflict settings (e.g., Hameiri, Bar-Tal, & Halperin, 2014).
In this chapter, we aim to contribute to this growing literature in two important ways. First, despite the important strides made, our knowledge of psychological interventions in conflict and post-conflict settings is limited and at an early stage of development.