Hostility towards minorities can be contagious

May 9, 2018, Max Planck Society
Deadly hatred: In Bosnia, latent tensions between different ethnic groups escalated into civil war in the early 1990s. The tragic climax was the Srebrenica massacre, during which more than 8,000 Bosniaks were murdered in July 1995. Today, a memorial site commemorates the victims. Based on game theory experiments, researchers have found that hostile behaviour towards other ethnic groups has contagious effects. Credit: Michael Büker, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Inter-ethnic conflicts often escalate surprisingly quickly. In a recent study, researchers have investigated the influence of the environment on peoples' hostility against minorities with the help of experiments. They found that hostility towards members of other ethnic groups is much more often imitated than hostility towards co-ethnics.

Whether in Bosnia, Liberia, or Rwanda, violent conflicts have suddenly broken out between ethnic groups that have lived peacefully together for a long time. So far, there is no satisfactory scientific explanation as to why aggression can repeatedly develop such a dynamic.

Jana Cahlíková of the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance, together with colleagues from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has developed a novel experiment to test how influences hostile behaviour towards other ethnic groups. The scientific article was published by the prestigious international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in April 2018.

The study examines adolescents from schools in eastern Slovakia and their behaviour towards members of the Roma people – a minority against whom there are substantial prejudices, and in recent years, have been increasing acts of aggression. The unique element about this research project was that participants were able to act within their social environment.

Participants can live out their willingness towards destruction

To examine hostile behaviour, the researchers had the young people play a "Joy of Destruction game": a game in which the participants – if they so wish – can live out their willingness towards destruction. Two players receive two euros each and simultaneously choose whether to pay 20 cents to reduce their counterpart's income by one euro or simply keep the money unchanged. The players remain anonymous and play against each other only once.

The researchers used a list of typical names to inform the participants of whether their counterpart was a member of the Slovak majority population or the Roma minority. In addition, the scientists designed the course of the game in such a way that three young people from the same school class made their decision shortly after each other. The following players knew the decisions of their classmates.

It turned out that the destructive behaviour of the peers had a significant influence on the players' choices. The willingness to also act aggressively grew significantly. It was striking that this influence more than doubled when hostility was directed against Roma rather than against one of their own .

Own group members are spared

In a second related experiment, the researchers examined the stability of social norms. They asked from the same region to assess whether the hostile behaviour shown by their peers in the first experiment was appropriate. Here, too, it became clear that the social environment makes a significant contribution to whether an action is judged to be socially appropriate or not. In an environment without hostile peers, aggressive behaviour by players towards Roma or the subjects' own social group was rated negatively to a similar extent. However, knowing that one player showed destructive behaviour after his or her classmates had been hostile to a Roma, they rated this behaviour as more appropriate. The ratings of hostile behaviour directed against a member of their own social group are more stable – they depend less on whether the players had previously observed destructive behaviour in the .

"Our results suggest that fragile social norms can lead to a sudden change in individual towards other – from good coexistence to aggression," says Max Planck scientist Jana Cahlíková. It is therefore important to consistently prosecute and punish hate crimes. Cahlíková and her colleagues also point out that politics and society should react very sensitively when prejudices and hostilities against certain social groups increase.

Explore further: Behaviour is considered more moral the more common it is

More information: Michal Bauer et al. Social contagion of ethnic hostility, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720317115

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1 / 5 (3) May 09, 2018
Among other things, there also is no real consideration shown toward a common if not universal source of conflicts, goading by local leaders for personal profit!
Also, common in this politically oriented time, there is no referral to minorities hating majorities! Minorities are automatically defined as without bad feelings towards others, innocent of all guile. In a society in which one of the two major parties, the Democratic Rackets, acts as a bully boy for various groups, and courts so often adopt the principle that blacks are always right and whites are always wrong, minorities can engage in many perverted machinations to try to start trouble then blame the majority. Two Indians on a "tour" of a university acting suspiciously, then, when questioned by police, calling it "racism". Blacks on a golf course proceeding too slowly for the rules then claiming "racism" when told they have to leave.
not rated yet May 09, 2018
Well jp, it's always the 'others' that are held to a stricter standard, isn't it? Would the course employees dared to reproach a straggling foursome of white executives?

I have discussed these issues with my father's kinfolk. A general consensus (when talking to me) is that you jp-people are not white enough. Or American enough by the standards set by my kinfolk.

On the issue of Rwanda, I have noticed a reticence in discussing motives. For centuries, the Tutsi had brutally dominated & enslaved the Hutu. Once the Hutu had access to firearms? They used them to brutalize their oppressors.

This outraged the First-Worlder Tourists. Who feel entitled to photo the cutely costumed WaTutsi natives dancing for the tourists condescending enjoyment.

So the Tutsi got new weapons & the Hutu were deprived or resupply. Now we are all waiting for the next generation of Hutu gaining the means to rise again.

- cont'd -
not rated yet May 09, 2018
Another example of First-Worlder hypocrisy is in Syria. The Alawites, a small tribe of religious Shiite, ethnic Turks rose to dominate the Syrian State.

Thus enemies of Saddam Hussein's Sunni fascist state in Iraq. He made the mistake of successfully attacking Kuwait. Knocking the dominoes over.

The Kuwaitis appealed to the Saudis who owed them a debt of honor. And to the western powers with a stake in their oil. Dooming Saddam's regime.

The Saudi's, as Wahhabist Sunni, consider all Shiite to be heretics. Deserving of conquest and slavery. This conflict has existed for fourteen centuries.

Understanding the history cuts right through the confusion of events in the Middle East.

The Saudis are manipulating us ignorant Americans against their tribal enemies. Using us as sepoy troops to fight ethnic Iranians/Persians and religious Shiite Turks and Arabs,

Get us and the Israelis to do their dirty work attacking Iran. Enabling the rise of Wahhabist empire.
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (1) May 09, 2018
You are talking about tribal / religious conflicts. These goes back hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. Hatred of minorities in the West stems from 1st world experience with historical and contemporary criminality of immigrant groups from the Irish, to the Italians, Jews to blacks, Latinos and Russians (contemporarily). Two different reasons for hatred.
5 / 5 (2) May 10, 2018
TB, you make an argument for excusing popular perception of why they should hate minorities. Are you claiming the hatred is not innate? Did not exist before the immigrants showed up? Cause that would be a big surprise to the Indigenous First Nations and 1840's Mexicans.

You might reconsider your own hostility. With your assertion and assumption that "...criminality of immigrant groups from the Irish, to the Italians, Jews to blacks, Latinos and Russians..." (insert favorite ass joke here)

Your assumption is an axe handle-across! That Blacks qualify as an immigrant group? Really? You been taking history lessons from Kanye?

As for Blacks being criminally inclined? Centuries of brutal treatment from them there Christian White Folk. Centuries of the Peculiar Institution that to this day, sanctions incestuous rape and official repression of Blacks.

Blacks have well learned the lessons of hate from the Whites. Where is the honor in blaming the Blacks for being prey?
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
A small but significant number of whites opposed slavery, helped slaves escape, and many hundreds of thousands died in the Civil War which resulted in the 13th amendment. As the aspirations of blacks to equality were crushed again and again (1877, 1919, 1950s/60s) more and more whites took a stand. Unfortunately the US economy peaked around 1970 in terms of manufacturing and agriculture and real gains in wages for all but the top 20% have either stayed the same or gotten worse. Too many blacks have failed to see their own plight has improved in terms of opportunity but that opportunity itself has been reduced for everyone except for the top 20%. Therefore, many blacks blame all whites for their problems and many whites from the stagnated classes/industries blame blacks for taking all the taxes in welfare though more whites receive social services in overall numbers and hispanics for taking the jobs that have either moved overseas or have been or are being replaced by technology.

5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
There is a further element to the Sunni Shiite animosity: when the Arab Muslims conquered and absorbed the Persian Empire within decades of Muhammad's death, the Persians (Iranians), who were/are an Indo-European people with a vast, ancient, and glorious history/civilization (but who harbor racist attitudes towards Arabs) largely became Shiites because while they could not defeat Islam, they could embrace a form of it which allowed them to maintain an identity separate from the Arab Sunni. Though there are in fact some pockets of Shiites and associated sects. Iraq being the odd card in all this, having an Arab majority of which a majority embraced Shiism, there is an element of "race traitor" in the animosity of Sunni Arabs towards their fellow Arabs who embrace the religion of those hated Persians/Iranians and their racial superiority. The origin of the name Iran is Aryan; Reza Shah changed Persia to Iran consciously, and was an ally of Hitler which got him deposed in WWII.
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
There were also Germans and other gentile Europeans who helped Jews during the genocide. Many Hutus helped Tutsis, and Turks who helped Armenians as well as the whites who helped blacks, Mexicans AND Native Americans. I think this is indicative of something that is lost when one combines too many dissected organs, throw them in the blender, and proclaim the emerging goo to be scientific truth. First, try to put the organs back together, which of course isn't possible in the case of an organism, but you can at least experiment to determine their function before blending them into statistical goo.

As Belyaev foxes and successive experimenters with other species have shown, it is possible with selection to breed excessively aggressive/fearful animals and docile/curious ones from the same first generation. Having had long experience with various domesticated animals myself I know these personality characteristics are heritable.


5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
Some humans will always fear and be aggressive towards others who are not members of the in-group while others from the same troop/clan/tribe/people/nation/empire will evince the opposite end of the behavioral spectrum and explore the strangeness in the world.

The research discussed in this article should be applied to this model and it could be concluded that those who fall somewhere in between-- who are not extreme fear/aggression types nor extreme open/engaging types-- who probably make up the dominant portion of any population of any social animal which has evolved to exploit a geographic/ecological territory with seasonally or otherwise fluctuating resources and degrees of predator activity-- will evince a tendency towards adjusting their particular behaviors according to availability of resources versus predator concentrations, or as we humans would describe it-- economic opportunity versus competition from those who don't look, speak, or believe like us.

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