What is it about?

In two studies (N = 811 adult participants), we first assessed how much individuals are biased against outgroups (i.e., their former opponent), by asking them to rate themselves on various statements concerning outgroups—for example, outgroups are taking our jobs or that they should marry people of their own nationality. Afterwards, we exposed them to different kinds of information. One kind, which we called "COVID-19 help," said that the former opponent had helped the participants' nation with aid in fighting COVID-19 (for example, the government of the former opponent has provided 1,000 COVID-19 tests). In contrast, the "control condition" information either said that the former opponent had helped a different nation or that such help was exchanged between different countries. The goal was to examine how the "COVID-19 help" would affect participants' outgroup emotions, trust, and perceptions. We found that individuals with less prejudiced views of the former opponent showed more negative emotions toward the outgroup, and were less likely to trust them in the COVID-19 help condition than in the control condition. The reason was that when participants read the COVID-19 help condition, they perceived the former opponent was trying to assert dominance over the ingroup, which triggered negative emotions and diminished their trust in the outgroup. In addition, this was the case for those who held more negative views of the outgroup regardless of the information they read.

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Why is it important?

This research found that peace in times of social crisis such as COVID-19 is less likely to emerge in post-conflict societies, wherein intergroup expectations are driven by societal beliefs, group-based emotions, and intergroup violence. Our research revealed that owing to a tragic past, people could not come together even during crises and feared being dominated by the outgroup.


As someone who has lived in a post-conflict context and lost loved ones during the war, I believe that using scientific research to encourage peace is important. This study demonstrates how fragile intergroup relations are in such a context; thus, we need more efforts to see how we can bring these groups together and connect them on a human level.

Islam Borinca

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This page is a summary of: Crisis complicates peacebuilding in postconflict societies: COVID-19 support triggers negative outgroup emotions among individuals with low and high prejudice., Peace and Conflict Journal of Peace Psychology, July 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pac0000631.
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