Remembering Historical Victimization: Collective Guilt for Current Ingroup Transgressions

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Abstract

The authors examined the consequences of remembering historical victimization for emotional reactions to a current adversary. In Experiment 1, Jewish Canadians who were reminded of the Holocaust accepted less collective guilt for their group's harmful actions toward the Palestinians than those not reminded of their ingroup's past victimization. The extent to which the conflict was perceived to be due to Palestinian terrorism mediated this effect. Experiment 2 illustrated that reminding Jewish people, but not non-Jewish people, of the Holocaust decreased collective guilt for current harm doing compared with when the reminder concerned genocide committed against another group (i.e., Cambodians). In Experiments 3 and 4, Americans experienced less collective guilt for their group's harm doing in Iraq following reminders of either the attacks on September 11th, 2001 or the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor compared with a historical victimization reminder that was irrelevant to the ingroup. The authors discuss why remembering the ingroup's past affects responses to outgroups in the present.

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