Ethnic Group Conflict
Cultural conformity is found in every culture. However, when this conformity is based upon negative and distorted social perceptions, conflict such as the Palestinian – Israeli conflict is formed. The distorted views between the two religions have led to a conflict spanning generations. Through negative stereotypes, the two regions have been in conflict without hope of peace. The distortions in religions have led to a more political conflict. Generations of negative social perceptions have led to generations of people filled with hate.
Conformity is defined as the “changing or adopting of a behavior or attitude in order to be consistent with the social norms of a group” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011, p 545). Psychologists believe that some conformity is needed in order to have a functioning society. Conformity is a universal process. However, some cultures have variations in conformity. Researchers have made some key observations in relation to conformity. Researchers concluded that conformity is higher when a person must respond publicly rather than privately (McGraw Hill, 2010). Researchers have also concluded that individuals working on a task with no clear answer are more susceptible to social pressure and conformity. Irving Janis applied the concept of groupthink to tightly knit groups. Groupthink is the “tendency for members of a group to be more concerned with preserving group solidarity and uniformity than with objectively evaluating all alternatives” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011, p 545). Groupthink discredits outside views. Because of groupthink, a group may believe they make no mistakes.
In Palestine the primary religion is Sunni Islam; whereas, the primary religion in Israel is Judaism. Each group behaves and is characterized by the religious doctrine of the region. Religious and political conformity is of importance in both regions (Hofman, 1977). Both Judaism and Islamic cultures have strict expectations and rules. In both cultures, it is expected that these expectations and rules be followed. Because of these rules, there is strict religious conformity in the region. There are severe political and religious conflicts between the Judaism nation of Israel and the Islamic nation of Palestine. Many of the current issues are due to extremist groups who have created their own set of rules and desire conformity to them. The religions of both regions have a role in creating the culture and lifestyle of the region. According to Cohen (1990), religion is a cultural variable that affects the understanding between societies or nations. The attitudes of each culture have created political issues that appear to be irreconcilable.
Social Perception and Social Cognition
Social perception is the process that an individual “uses to obtain critically important information about other people” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011, p 541). Social cognition is the mental process that an individual uses to interpret information about the world. Based upon these definitions, social perception is a function of social cognition. Individuals use experiences to make future decisions. Through social experiences, an individual develops attitudes and beliefs. Social perception is rooted deeply in culture. Therefore, an individual raised in similar environments view experiences as similar. However, an individual exposed to different environments tend to view experiences in different ways. The social cognition processes an individual uses to categorize the world are also the processes that may distort the view of the world.
The perspectives of the Palestinians and Israelis have contributed to the conflicting views of the regions. The views that the two regions have of each other are based on the stereotypes they hold of each other. The conflict of each group has been distorted through the social perceptions of the other group. Because of these distortions, the exact demands of each group have become unclear.
The theory of attitude balance can be considered important in social perception. The theory of attitude balance states that an individual seeks consistency in their attitudes and beliefs (Spector, 2008). An individual will overestimate the positive characteristics of those individuals they like. In contrast, an individual will underestimate positive characteristics and emphasize negative characteristics of those individuals they do not like (Heider, 1959). When applying this theory to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, it can be concluded that each group emphasizes the negative of the other group. These perceptions are then taught to each generation. This creates the age – old conflict inflicting the region today.
Social Perceptions that Require Change
Both Judaism and Islam have roots of Abrahamic origin (Esposito, Fasching, & Lewis, 2009). However, both sides refuse to acknowledge these similarities. These two religions, along with Christianity, are similar and connected. The histories of these three religions include many of the same people and stories (Esposito, Fasching, & Lewis, 2009). While Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have common beliefs, they also have doctrine and practice differences. These differences are emphasized by the other group and have contributed to the conflict.
Older generations are continuing to instill the feelings of hatred in younger generations. As long as this practice continues, the Palestinian – Israeli conflict will continue. Children are impressionable; therefore, they are able to be conformed to the hatred that their elders cling on to. Until these children become adults and are able to learn another perception, the cultural perceptions they are conformed to are dominant. Both groups need to form and accept new perceptions. Until this is done, the conflict will remain.
Individuals are more probable to change their negative perceptions when they acknowledge that the other group may have similar attitudes and beliefs (Byrne, 1961). The religions of Judaism and Islam have similarities. Acknowledgement of these similarities can be a starting point for peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel. Communication related to religious ideals may begin resolution between these groups. This resolution is important in order to maintain the Holy Land important to both religions (Esposito, Fasching, & Lewis, 2009).
An easy solution to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict is unlikely. However, the changing of social perceptions based on religion is an ideal place to begin. The Palestinian – Israeli conflict is deeply rooted in religion which turned political. The two religions of Judaism and Islam are deeply connected; thus creating a starting point for resolution. Religious communication between the two regions may play a key role in the future of peace between the two groups. Embracing the similarities between the two groups is one way in which to begin changing the social perceptions affecting them.
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Cohen, R. (1990). Culture and conflict in Egyptian-Israeli relations: a dialogue of the deaf. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Esposito, J. L., Fasching, D. J., & Lewis, T. (2009). World Religions Today (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Heider, F. (1959). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York, NY: Wiley.
Hofman, J. (1977). Identity and intergroup perception in Israel. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 1(3), 79-102. doi:10.1016/0147-1767(77)90021-9
McGraw Hill (2010). PsychSmart. New York, NY: Author.
Spector, P. E. (2008). Industrial and Organizational Psychology: research and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/ Allyn Bacon.
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