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MIT research: The power of being heard
Date:3/15/2012

e programs have shown that the dominant group often ends up doing more of the talking. The researchers believe it could also help for members of the disempowered group to speak first, priming both groups to be more receptive to the unity-building activities that follow.

Meaningful change

When the researchers questioned the subjects again a week after the initial exchange, they found that attitudes had reverted to pre-experiment levels. "We didn't expect that the effects of a 15-minute intervention with Palestinians and Israelis would last very long," Bruneau says. "But of course what we're interested in is improving relationships between groups in conflict. To really do that, you need to know the long-term effects of an intervention that you're trying to employ."

That's a question that Saxe and Bruneau are now trying to address by studying which types of attitude changes are most likely to last during a conflict. For example, a program that decreases the perception that the other side is biased and irrational might prove more successful than one designed to improve trust, Bruneau says.

"There are all kinds of different things that could change, including prejudice, trust, empathy and commitment to collective action. Trying to understand which of these are desirable, which of these are meaningful, I think is really important," he says.

To help with that effort, Saxe and Bruneau are also investigating the use of brain-scanning techniques such as fMRI to determine whether conflict-resolution programs have any measurable impact on brain activity. As the first step in that program, they reported in January that brain regions that respond to emotional suffering overlap with those involved with the ability to perceive what another person is thinking.


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Contact: Caroline McCall
cmccall5@mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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