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The Impact of Acknowledgment and Denial of Responsibility for Harm on Victim Groups’ Perceptions of Justice, Power, and Intergroup Attitudes


European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


Acknowledgement of responsibility for in‐group harmdoing is considered a precondition for reconciliation. However, we know little about its impact on victim groups. Using a mixed methods approach, in two studies in Bangladesh we examine the role of acknowledgment and denial of responsibility on intergroup outcomes. Study 1 used an open‐ended survey to assess Bangladeshis’ perceptions about acknowledgement and denial of responsibility for the mass violence committed by the Pakistani army on Bangladeshis during the 1971 war. Study 2 experimentally examined the effects and the potential mechanisms (emotional reactions, perceived injustice, and relative power) through which acknowledgment and denial of responsibility impact two intergroup outcomes: out‐group animosity and willingness for contact. Both studies demonstrated the importance of anger and perceived injustice as mediators of the effects of acknowledgment and denial of responsibility on intergroup outcomes. We draw implications for theory and for strategies to address past victimization across different contexts of conflict.