The Privilege of Humiliation: The Effects of Social Roles and Norms on Immediate and Prolonged Aggression in Conflict
28 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2008
Date Written: February 2, 2007
Research on the psychology of humiliation has illustrated its central function in many intractable conflicts. Feelings of humiliation have been found to be among the strongest human emotions; they can permeate people's lives with an all-consuming intensity and are among the most potent forces creating rifts between people and groups. However, it is not merely the type of emotions that distinguishes tractable from intractable conflict, but rather differences in the social structures and processes that imbue them with meaning. Feelings of raw emotion are often experienced, acted on, and remembered in ways that are socially determined. Thus, emotional experiences are shaped by rules and norms that define what certain emotions mean, whether they are good or bad, and how people should respond to them. Similar emotions may be constructed and acted upon differently in distinct families, communities, and cultures. Communities entrenched in ongoing conflict may unwittingly encourage emotional experiences and expressions of the most extreme nature, thereby escalating and sustaining the conflict. This paper presents an experimental study on the effects of strong roles and norms on experiences of and reactions to humiliating encounters, part of a program of research on humiliation and intractability.
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