This Is the Hour of Revenge: The Psychology of Propaganda and Mass Atrocities

25 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2015 Last revised: 22 May 2016

See all articles by Christine Lillie

Christine Lillie

Duke University

Brock Knapp

Duke University

Lasana T. Harris

New York University (NYU) - Department of Psychology

Richard Ashby Wilson

University of Connecticut School of Law; University of Connecticut

Date Written: March 18, 2015

Abstract

The current research identifies revenge propaganda as the most likely type to instigate atrocities, and identifies disgust as the operative psychological mechanism. We coded 242 speeches by a Serbian politician for references to revenge, nationalism, stereotyping, dehumanization, justice, victimization, past atrocities, political institutions and direct threats. After reading one speech or a control, participants answered questions about empathy, intentionality, and whether violence is morally justifiable. Only speeches focusing on revenge and past atrocities intensified justifications of violence. Only revenge speech increased overall negative attitudes towards the out-group. On the level of personality, those who are more politically conservative, feel the world is unjust, engage more in violent media and are male are more likely to justify violence. This behavioral data is supported by a physiological study using facial EMG in which only revenge speeches elicited disgust towards the out-group. These findings have implications for the elusive goal of preventing atrocities.

Keywords: Psychology and Law, Crimes Against Humanity, Hate Speech, Incitement, Instigation, International Human Rights, Genocide, Dehumanization

Suggested Citation

Lillie, Christine and Knapp, Brock and Harris, Lasana T. and Wilson, Richard Ashby, This Is the Hour of Revenge: The Psychology of Propaganda and Mass Atrocities (March 18, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2580521 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2580521

Christine Lillie

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Brock Knapp

Duke University

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Lasana T. Harris

New York University (NYU) - Department of Psychology ( email )

New York, NY 10003
United States

Richard Ashby Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uconn.edu/faculty/profiles/richard-wilson

University of Connecticut ( email )

354 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://humanrights.uconn.edu/faculty_staff/richard-wilson/

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