This Is the Hour of Revenge: The Psychology of Propaganda and Mass Atrocities
25 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2015 Last revised: 22 May 2016
Date Written: March 18, 2015
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: Suggested Citation