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When Criticism is Ineffective: The Case of Historical Trauma and Unsupportive Allies

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


Three studies examined the effect of historical trauma reminders and criticism from international allies on attitudes toward current conflicts. In Study 1, Israeli participants (N = 116) were primed with the Holocaust, and read either that US President Obama supports Israel's right to defend itself and attack Iran, or that he opposes such action. Then, support for preemptive violence was assessed. Study 2 (N = 133) replicated this design, comparing inclusive and exclusive framings of the Holocaust. Study 3 (N = 478), examined the effect of Holocaust reminders and criticism from the EU on attitudes toward militant policies against Palestinians. All three studies found that Holocaust primes juxtaposed with international criticism increased support for aggression, especially under exclusive framings of the Holocaust. Study 3, however, found this effect only among left‐wing participants. These findings indicate that when historical trauma is salient, international criticism may be ineffective and may even backfire (150 words).