Conflict and Moral Concern: Media, Psychology, Rationality and Emotion

An international workshop was held in by the Swiss Center, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Collaboration with The Center for Study of Rationality, the Smart Communications Institute and with the support of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The conference was held on June 6-7, 2012. It was aimed at identifying the most important theoretical and empirical work that is relevant for understanding dynamics that initiate conflict as well as dynamics that resolve conflict and bring reconciliation. This deeply interdisciplinary workshop—drawing from scholars in media studies, political communication, social psychology, and judgment and decision making—aimed to clarify the role of morality in structuring the dynamics of asymmetric inter-group conflict, particularly when morality takes the form of moral concern, moral judgment or moral emotions. 

This focus seemed justified to us not only because previous research establishes that moral factors play important roles in both interpersonal and inter-group conflict, but also because of the way that emerging user-driven media systems increase popular exposure to information and images that invite moral responses to asymmetric conflicts. Today’s conflicts are subject to intense and ongoing media coverage, both among the parties themselves but also among international audiences. These conditions raise the possibility that exposure to media images and genres traditionally used to depict others’ suffering can evoke moral concern among viewers even when those others are ‘the enemy’. It also means that parties can be made aware of the destructive force of their own violence against others. With specific attention to asymmetric conflict, we submitted that the asymmetry of power between conflicting parties can create asymmetries of moral response, along with associated emotions of guilt, shame and processes of identification and dis-identification. The workshop thus included a discussion among experts in different disciplines, including media studies, psychology and rationality on morality and inter-group conflict. 


See also: Conferences