The cultural contagion of conflict

Michele Gelfand, Garriy Shteynberg, Tiane Lee, Janetta Lun, Sarah Lyons, Chris Bell, Joan Y. Chiao, C. Bayan Bruss, May Al Dabbagh, Zeynep Aycan, Abdel Hamid Abdel-Latif, Munqith Dagher, Hilal Khashan, Nazar Soomro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anecdotal evidence abounds that conflicts between two individuals can spread across networks to involve a multitude of others. We advance a cultural transmission model of intergroup conflict where conflict contagion is seen as a consequence of universal human traits (ingroup preference, outgroup hostility; i.e. parochial altruism) which give their strongest expression in particular cultural contexts. Qualitative interviews conducted in the Middle East, USA and Canada suggest that parochial altruism processes vary across cultural groups and are most likely to occur in collectivistic cultural contexts that have high ingroup loyalty. Implications for future neuroscience and computational research needed to understand the emergence of intergroup conflict are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-703
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1589
StatePublished - 2012


  • Collectivism
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Parochial altruism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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