Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust / Edition 1

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When and why do groups target each other for extermination? How do seemingly normal people become participants in genocide? Why do some individuals come to the rescue of members of targeted groups, while others just passively observe their victimization? And how do perpetrators and bystanders later come to terms with the choices that they made? These questions have long vexed scholars and laypeople alike, and they have not decreased in urgency as we enter the twenty-first century. In this book—the first collection of essays representing social psychological perspectives on genocide and the Holocaust— prominent social psychologists use the principles derived from contemporary research in their field to try to shed light on the behavior of the perpetrators of genocide. The primary focus of this volume is on the Holocaust, but the conclusions reached have relevance for attempts to understand any episode of mass killing. Among the topics covered are how crises and difficult life conditions might set the stage for violent intergroup conflict; why some groups are more likely than others to be selected as scapegoats; how certain cultural values and beliefs could facilitate the initiation of genocide; the roles of conformity and obedience to authority in shaping behavior; how engaging in violent behavior makes it easier to for one to aggress again; the evidence for a "genocide-prone" personality; and how perpetrators deceive themselves about what they have done. The book does not culminate in a grand theory of intergroup violence; instead, it seeks to provide the reader with new ways of making sense of the horrors of genocide. In other words, the goal of all of the contributors is to provide us with at least some of the knowledge that we will need to anticipate and prevent future such tragic episodes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The well-researched, provocative essays in this volume look at the Holocaust, and genocide in general, from the viewpoint of social psychology" —Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195133622
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Illinois, Chicago

DePaul University

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Peter Browning (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
PART I - Becoming a Perpetrator
1. "The Psychology of Bystanders, Perpetrators, and Heroic Helpers", Ervin Staub (University of Massachusetts - Amherst)
2. "What is a 'Social-Psychological' Account of Perpetrator Behavior? The Person Versus the Situation in Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners", Leonard S. Newman (University of Illinois at Chicago)
3. "Authoritarianism and the Holocaust: Some Cognitive and Affective Implications", Peter Suedfeld and Mark Schaller (University of British Columbia)
4. "Perpetrator Behavior as Destructive Obedience: An Evaluation of Stanley Milgram's Perspective, the Most Influential Social-Psychological Approach to the Holocaust", Thomas Blass (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
PART II Beyond the Individual: Groups and Collectives
5. "Sacrifice Lambs Dressed n Wolves' Clothing: Envious Prejudice, Ideology, and the Scapegoating of Jews", Peter Glick (Lawrence University)
6. "Group Processes and the Holocaust", R. Scott Tindale, Catherine Munier, Michelle Wasserman (Loyola University), and Christine M. Smith (Grand Valley State University)
7 "Examining the Implications of Cultural Frames on Social Movements and Group Action". Daphna Oyserman and Armand Lauffer (University of Michigan)
8. "Population and Predators: Preconditions for the Holocaust from a Control-Theoretical Perspective", Dieter Frey and Helmut Rez (Universitaet Muenchen)
9. "The Zoomorphism of Human Collective Violence", Robert Zajone (Stanford University)
PART III Dealing with Evil
10. "The Holocaust and the Four Roots of Evil", Roy F. Baumeister (Case Western Reserve University)
11. "Instigators of Genocide: Examining Hitler from a Social Psychological Perspective", David Mandel (University of Hertfordshire)
12. "Perpetrators with a CLear Conscience: Lying Self-Deception and Belief Change", Ralph Erber (DePaul University)
13. "Explaining the Holocaust: Does Social Psychology Exonerate the Perpetrators?", Arthur G. Miller (Miami University of Ohio)

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