Out of sight, out of mind: The emotional determinant of “harmful inaction” intergroup conflict

Julia Elad-Strenger*, Michal Reifen Tagar, Thomas Kessler, Yossi Hasson, Deborah Shulman, Kea Brahms, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Groups in conflict can act against one another in various ways, such as inflicting physical injury upon out-group members, actively expelling them from the social sphere or denying them basic rights. While intergroup conflict literature is mostly dedicated to identifying the psychological determinants of such overt, or active, forms of intergroup harm, less research has been dedicated to the psychological mechanisms that intensify intergroup harm inflicted through inaction, such as ignoring the out-group, withholding assistance, and avoiding mutual cooperation. The goal of the present research is to identify the distinct emotional determinant of “harmful inaction” in intergroup conflict across various socio-political contexts, focusing on the experience of group-based contempt. Across seven studies, using different methods, we find that support for harmful inaction towards the rival in conflict is uniquely associated with group-based contempt, compared to anger (Studies 1a-d, 2–3), hate (Studies 1b-d, 2), disgust (Studies 1b-d, 2, 4), and fear (Studies 1b-d, 2). These findings were consistent across different contexts of intergroup conflict, different specifications of harmful inaction, and different sets of controlled emotions. Taken together, our results suggest that group-based contempt has a unique contribution to fueling and maintaining intergroup conflicts by triggering a unique type of intergroup harm.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104304
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Contempt
  • Group-based emotions
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Intergroup harm


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