Building Cooperation among Groups in Conflict: An Experiment on Intersectarian Cooperation in Lebanon

Han Il Chang, Leonid Peisakhin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Societies divided along ethnic or religious lines suffer from persistent conflict and underprovision of public goods. Scholarly understanding of how to strengthen intergroup cooperation remains limited. In this study, we set out to test the effectiveness of two interventions on intergroup cooperation: cross-group expert appeal and participation in a cross-group discussion. The laboratory-in-the-field experiment is set in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, and involves interactions between 180 Shia and 180 Sunni Muslim participants. We find that the expert appeal increases intersectarian cooperation in settings that do not entail reciprocal exchange. On average, cross-sectarian discussions do not improve cooperation, but those discussions in which participants delve deeply into the conflict's causes and possible remedies are associated with greater cooperation. Neither intervention diminishes the effectiveness of sectarian clientelistic appeals. The policy implication of our study is that intergroup cooperation can be strengthened even in regions as bitterly divided as the Middle East.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-162
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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