Victim and Perpetrator Groups’ Divergent Perspectives on Collective Violence: Implications for Intergroup Relations

Rezarta Bilali, Johanna Ray Vollhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Groups in conflict develop strikingly different construals of the same violent events. These clashing perceptions of past violence can have detrimental consequences for intergroup relations and might provoke new hostilities. In this article, we integrate and juxtapose what we know about construals of collective violence by delineating the different dimensions along which these construals differ between victim and perpetrator groups: regarding the question of who is the victim, who is responsible for the harm doing, what the perpetrator’s intent was, how severe the violence was, and when it took place. Then, we discuss the individual- and group-level factors (e.g., collective narratives, social identities) that shape these construals, as well as their implications for attitudes regarding the conflict and support for relevant policies. We distinguish two different core motives that drive construals and their outcomes among victim and perpetrator groups: Perpetrator groups try to cope with moral identity threats and preserve a positive image of the ingroup, while victim groups try to protect their ingroup from future harm doing and desire acknowledgment of their group’s experiences. Lastly, we discuss implications for strategies and interventions to address victim and perpetrator groups’ divergent perspectives of collective violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-108
Number of pages34
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • acknowledgment
  • attributions
  • collective harm doing
  • collective narratives
  • collective victimization
  • collective violence
  • construals of violence
  • denial
  • reconciliation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Victim and Perpetrator Groups’ Divergent Perspectives on Collective Violence: Implications for Intergroup Relations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this