Sociopsychological analysis of conflict-supporting narratives: A general framework

Daniel Bar-Tal*, Neta Oren, Rafi Nets-Zehngut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Societies involved in intractable conflicts form conflict-supporting narratives that illuminate and justify their intergroup conflicts. These narratives play an important role in satisfying the basic sociopsychological needs of the involved individuals and collectives. In order to fulfill this role the narratives tend to be biased in favor of the in-group, selective, distorting and simplistic. This article analyzes such narratives that focus on the following major themes: Justification and Threats (of conflict), Delegitimization (of the opponent), Glorification and Victimhood (of the in-group), the in-group’s need for Patriotism and Unity, and its Aspiration for Peace. Additionally, the article describes the individual and collective functions of these narratives. It also describes six main methods that are used in the narratives’ construction: reliance on supportive sources, marginalization of contradictory information, magnification of supportive themes, fabrication of supportive contents, omission of contradictory contents, and use of framing language. Because conflict-supporting narratives are so functional, the involved societies struggle to support their dominance within their own society as well as in the international community. This article, therefore, presents seven methods that are used by the parties in their intrasocietal struggles – control of access to information, censorship, discrediting of contradicting information, monitoring, punishment, encouragement and rewarding, and closure of archives. Similar methods are used in the international arena struggles. Finally, it describes the process of change from adherence to the conflict-supportive narratives to the construction of new peace-supporting narratives and adherence to them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-675
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014


  • collective memory
  • culture of conflict
  • ethos of conflict
  • ethos of peace
  • intractable conflict
  • narratives
  • peacebuilding
  • reconciliation


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