15 - Importance of Social Categorization for Forgiveness and Collective Guilt Assignment for the Holocaust  pp. 284-306

Importance of Social Categorization for Forgiveness and Collective Guilt Assignment for the Holocaust

By Michael J. A. Wohl and Nyla R. Branscombe

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



Although more than a half century has passed since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the extermination of some six million Jews remains the prototype of the violence that one group can commit against another group (Barkan, 2000; Staub, 1989). The extent to which contemporary Germans should and do continue to feel collective guilt for the Nazi genocide is a topic of much ongoing political debate (see Churchill, 1997; Goldhagen, 1996; Gross, 2001). Indeed, most of the chapters in this volume examine influences on the willingness of such perpetrator groups to accept guilt for their group's past. In contrast, in this chapter, we focus on the factors that lead historically victimized group members to assign or prescriptively desire that contemporary members of the perpetrator group experience collective guilt.

Given that collective guilt can be both accepted and assigned based on category membership alone, and does not require personal responsibility for the wrongdoing, social categorization processes should play a crucial role. We report on studies that empirically examine collective guilt assignment and forgiveness of contemporary Germans for the Holocaust among North American–Jewish people as a function of how the groups are categorized. We consider the consequences of perceiving Germans and Jews as distinct and separate groups, versus perceiving both groups as part of a single more inclusive superordinate category – that of humans.

Barkan, E. (2000). The guilt of nations: Restitution and negotiating historical injustices. New York: W. W. Norton
Baumeister, R. F. , Stillwell, A. M. , & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). Guilt: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 243–67
Boon, S. D. , & Sulsky, L. M. (1997). Attributions of blame and forgiveness in romantic relationships: A policy-capturing study. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 12, 19–44
Branscombe, N. R., Doosje, B., & McGarty, C. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of collective guilt. In D. M. Mackie & E. R. Smith (Eds.), From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups (pp. 49–66). Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press
Branscombe, N. R., Doosje, B., & McGarty, C. (2003). How people explain the Holocaust: Assignment of collective guilt to Germans as a function of level of categorization. Manuscript submitted for publication
Branscombe, N. R., Ellemers, N., Spears, R., & Doosje, B. (1999). The context and content of social identity threat. In N. Ellemers, R. Spears, & B. Doosje (Eds.), Social identity: Context, commitment, content (pp. 35–58). Oxford, UK: Blackwell
Brown, R. , & Abrams, D. (1986). The effects of intergroup similarity and goal interdependence on intergroup attitudes and task performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 78–92
Churchill, W. (1997). A little matter of genocide. San Francisco, CA: City Light Books
Enright, R., & North, J. (1998). Exploring forgiveness. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press
Exline, J. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Expressing forgiveness and repentance: Benefits and barriers. In M. E. McCullough, K. I. Pargament, & C. E. Thoresen (Eds.) Forgiveness: Theory, research and practice (pp. 133–55). New York: Guilford Press
Gaertner, S. L, Dovidio, J. F, Nier, J. A, Ward, C. M, & Banker, B. S. (1999). Across cultural divides: The value of a superordinate identity. In D. A. Prentice & D. T. Miller (Eds). Cultural divides: Understanding and overcoming group conflict (pp. 173–212). New York: Russell Sage Foundation
Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., Anastasio, P. A., Bachman, B. A., & Rust, M. C. (1993). Reducing intergroup bias: The common ingroup identity model. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European Review of Social Psychology (pp. 1–26). Chichester, UK: Wiley
Galinsky, A. D. , & Moskowitz, G. B. (2000). Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility and in-group favoritism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 708–24
Goldhagen, D. J. (1996). Hitler's willing executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf
Gorenberg, G. (2002). The thin green line. Mother Jones, 27, 48–56
Gross, J. T. (2001). Neighbours: The destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Haslam, S. A., Turner, J. C., Oakes, P. J., McGarty, C., & Reynolds, K. J. (1998). The group as a basis for emergent stereotype consensus. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European Review of Social Psychology (pp. 203–39). New York: Wiley
Hewstone, M. (1990). The “ultimate attribution error”? A review of the literature on intergroup causal attribution. European Journal of Social Psychology, 20, 311–35
Marques, J., Paez, D., & Serra, A. F. (1997). Social sharing, emotional climate, and the transgenerational transmission of memories: The Portuguese colonial war. In J. W. Pennebaker, D. Paez & B. Rime (Eds.), Collective memory of political events (pp. 253–75). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
McCullough, M. E., Pargament, K. I., & Thoresen, C. E. (2000). The psychology of forgiveness: History, conceptual issues, and overview. In M. E. McCullough, K. I. Pargament, & C. E. Thoresen (Eds.) Forgiveness: Theory, research and practice (pp. 1–14). New York: Guilford Press
Minow, M. (1998). Between vengeance and forgiveness: Facing history after genocide and mass violence. Boston, MA: Beacon Press
Oakes, P. J., Haslam, S. A., & Turner, J. C. (1994). Stereotyping and social reality. Oxford: Blackwell
Paez, D., Basabe, N., & Gonzalez, J. L. (1997). Social processes and collective memory: A cross-cultural approach to remembering political events. In J. W. Pennebaker, D. Paez, & B. Rime (Eds.), Collective memory of political events (pp. 147–74). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Pennebaker, J. W., & Banasik, B. L. (1997). On the creation and maintenance of collective memories: History as social psychology. In J. W. Pennebaker, D. Paez & B. Rime (Eds.), Collective memory of political events (pp. 3–19). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Reicher, S., & Hopkins, N. (2001). Self and nation. London: Sage
Reynolds, K. J. , Turner, J. C. , & Haslam, S. A. (2000). When are we better than them and they worse than us? A closer look at social discrimination in positive and negative domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 64–80
Sandage, S. J. , Worthington, Jr., E. L. , Everett, L. , & Hight, T. L. (2000). Seeking forgiveness: Theoretical context and an initial empirical study. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 28, 21–35
Schmitt, M. T. , & Silvia, P. J. , & Branscombe, N. R. (2000). The intersection of self-evaluation maintenance and social identity theories: Intragroup judgment in interpersonal and intergroup contexts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1598–1606
Staub, E. (1989). The roots of evil: The origins of genocide and other group violence. New York: Cambridge University Press
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel and W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall
Tangney, J. P., & Fischer, K. W. (1995). (Eds.). Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride. New York: Guilford Press
Teveth, S. (1996). Ben-Gurion and the Holocaust. New York: Harcourt Brace
Turner, J. C. , Oakes, P. J. , Haslam, S. A. , & McGarty, C. (1994). Self and collective: Cognition and social context. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 454–63
Turner, J. C., & Onorato, R. S. (1999). Social identity, personality, and the self-concept: A self-categorizing perspective. In T. R. Tyler, R. M. Kramer, & O. P. John (Eds.), The psychology of the social self (pp. 11–46). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Blackwell
Tutu, D. (1999). No future without forgiveness. New York: Doubleday
Weiner, B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility: A foundation for a theory of social conduct. New York: Guilford Press
Wohl, M. J. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2003). Forgiveness and collective guilt assignment to historical perpetrator groups depend on level of social category inclusiveness. Manuscript submitted for publication
Wohl, M. J. A., & Pritchard, E. T. (2003). The relationship between forgiveness and responsibility: An application of the triangle model. Manuscript submitted for publication
Wright, S. C. , Taylor, D. M. , & Moghaddam, F. M. (1990). Responding to membership in a disadvantaged group: From acceptance to collective action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 994–1003
Zechmeister, J. S. , & Romero, C. (2002). Victim and offender accounts of interpersonal conflict: Autobiographical narratives of forgiveness and unforgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 675–86
Zuckerman, M. (1993). Shoah in the sealed room: The “Holocaust” in the Israel press during the Gulf War. Tel Aviv: The Author's Publishing