Humanity's past is littered with examples of extreme intergroup violence. Hints about how to nudge groups away from susceptibility to genocide may lie in the place where artistic intuition and scientific inquiry meet: how aliens are depicted in film, and how groups are perceived in a psychological model of stereotype content.
Over 150 years ago, Edgar Allen Poe wrote about "the Imp of the perverse" -- that itching desire in the mind to do something we know is inappropriate, like break out into song in the middle of a church sermon. What can we learn about what drives and hinders these Imps from people who seem to succumb to their call?
'Creating trust' is such a common goal of intergroup conflict resolution and dialogue programs that it is almost reflexive. But should this really be a goal of these programs? Sure, trust can bring people together and is a key component of a lasting relationship, but it can also lead to one of the most powerful motivators for violence and aggression: betrayal.
"You cannot negotiate with terrorists." Is this true? Are groups we consider terrorists (Hamas, al Qaeda, etc.) as irrational as the dominant narrative suggests? Perhaps, but we also have a psychological bias that feeds this narrative. Together, bias and narrative may be imiting our options to end intergroup conflicts.
The late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat famously spoke about the psychological barrier that existed between Israeli and Arab that represented "70 percent of the whole problem." How do we surmount the barrier that exists between conflict groups and determine whether we've been successful? What help can neuroscience provide?