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Empathizing with the Enemy:
Emotion Regulation and Support for Humanitarian Aid in Intergroup Conflicts

WorkgroupSocial Processes
Project description

In newspapers, television, and on the internet, reports on conflicts between groups are frequent. These reports often – intentionally and unintentionally – elicit negative emotions vis-à-vis the other group, which then further fuel the conflict. Based on video clips from media coverage and texts, this project investigated how dealing with these negative emotions affects empathy with and willingness to help members of an opposing group.

Intractable intergroup conflicts represent a serious challenge facing society. Therefore, research has devoted much attention to finding ways for conflict resolution. Over the last years, negative emotions that are elicited by the conflict – and that are frequently reinforced and perpetuated by media reports about them – have increasingly moved into researchers’ focus. More specifically, it has been investigated how distancing from one’s negative emotions affects the behavior of persons who belong to a group that is involved in the conflict. However, less attention has been devoted to the effects of other emotion regulation strategies, especially those that are capable of eliciting empathy with members of the opposing party.

Through experiments and longitudinal studies, this project, therefore, investigated how different emotion regulation strategies affect empathy and willingness to help members of another group. To this end, we, for example, used film-clips taken from reports about certain conflicts. In all of our studies, we specifically focused on the effects of integrative emotion regulation, which involves paying close attention to one’s emotions (i.e., treating them as valuable information) as well as exploring their causes. Our findings suggest that integrative emotion regulation is related to greater empathy and supportiveness for another group, regardless of which behavior by this group’s members was described in the given study. Thus, the findings point to the relevance of integrative emotion regulation for positive relations between groups and are, hence, particularly relevant in situations where highly emotionally charged conflicts between groups exist.


Ditrich, L., Reinhardt, J., Roth, G., & Sassenberg, K. (2024). Integrative emotion regulation relates to sympathy and support for outgroups—Independent of situational outgroup behaviour. PLOS ONE, 19, e0296520. Open Access


Dr. Lara Ditrich Dr. Lara Ditrich
Tel.: +49 7071 979-268