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Inter‐group forgiveness in the aftermath of symmetric and asymmetric communal violence: Contact density and nationalistic climates as contextual mediators

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European Journal of Social Psychology

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In this study, we examine how communal exposure to war violence is related to the inhabitants' forgiveness. Based on multilevel analyses of representative survey data collected in the post‐war former Yugoslavia (N = 18 351), we show that forgiveness depends on the type of communal violence: It is lowest in communities exposed to asymmetric and strongest in communities exposed to symmetric violence. We further show the mediating role of the inter‐ethnic bonds and nationalistic climates in the communities: while asymmetric violence breaks local inter‐ethnic bonds and fuels norms of unconditional nationalism, in communities exposed to symmetric violence, inter‐ethnic contact is preserved, and nationalism rejected, more strongly than elsewhere. Our findings thus show that individuals' reconciliatory attitudes depend on the social context in which they are embedded; in particular, on the type of violence that affected their community and on the resulting communal climate that fosters or inhibits inter‐ethnic contact and exclusionary identities.