Source: (2006) Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 32(4): 459-470.

The present study explores the effects of expressions of empathy for the ingroup’s conflict-related suffering and assumed responsibility for causing it by a representative of the rival outgroup on recipient’s willingness for reconciliation. It is suggested that such positive expressions by an adversary will have positive effects on reconciliation only in the presence of a basic level of trust in the outgroup. In two studies, Israeli-Jewish participants were exposed to a Palestinian leader who either expressed or did not express empathy and/or Palestinian responsibility for Israelis’ suffering. After reading the speech, participants completed a questionnaire that measured their attitudes toward reconciliation with Palestinians. Results of both studies show that whereas expression of empathy led to more positive attitudes when trust was high, it tended to have adverse effects when trust was low. Similar effects were not found for assumed responsibility. Implications for research on intergroup conflict and reconciliation are discussed.