“Personal narratives and social norms can reduce the stigma of victims of human rights violations”
Natan SkiginPhD student, Department of Political Science, Notre Dame
In crime-ridden settings, such as those affected by large-scale criminal violence, citizens and elites often stigmatize victims of human rights violations because they perceive them to be involved in criminal activities rather only as innocent victims. International and local human rights NGOs often need to change the minds of reluctant populations in order to activate accountability mechanisms, address violence and pave the way for policies that help societies to recover from human rights violations such as transitional justice. How can they do it on a large scale? Through a large-scale survey (N=2,524), I am evaluating the effectiveness of two methods of persuasion: perspective-taking—hearing about the personal experiences of stigmatized groups—and changing perceptions of norms. social – behaviors considered typical or desirable. I test these interventions in Mexico’s war on drugs, which has generated a human rights crisis whose perpetrators are both state security forces and drug cartels. Participants were randomly assigned to a control group or to one of two treatment conditions: a video that recounts the struggles of the mother of a victim of enforced disappearance or a message that reveals how common it is to help the victims. The results indicate that both treatments significantly reduced stigma and increased inclusion behavior in the form of an anonymous letter of support to the missing person. However, the perspective-building strategy appears to be more effective: its effects are larger in magnitude, longer lasting, and activate several mechanisms that the norm message does not, including empathy. These findings underscore how powerful personal stories can change the minds of citizens.
Open to PhD. students, fellows, and faculty with an interest in civil war, violence, crime, peace, conflict management, and conflict resolution. The workshop is an informal gathering to discuss work in progress, chapters and thesis proposals, practical lectures, etc.
Originally posted on kroc.nd.edu.