Social Psychology and Genocide

Paul A. Roth

in The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199232116
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Social Psychology and Genocide

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  • History
  • Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
  • Social and Cultural History


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This article examines what purports to be a core standing problem in the explanation of genocide — how to account for the large number of people willing to participate in mass murders. It contends that research in social psychology has already answered the question of ‘perpetrator production’. Recruiting people to be perpetrators proves to be alarmingly easy. In addition, the application of social psychology to genocide has also become entangled in an ongoing moral debate, a debate that focuses on whether an emphasis on the extrinsic predictors of behaviour fits with a sense that people should be held morally and legally responsible for the choices they make. The discussion also argues that social psychology neither casts a pall of inevitability over such events nor provides moral exculpation for those involved.

Keywords: mass murder; perpetrator production; social psychology; moral responsibility; legal responsibility

Article.  8631 words. 

Subjects: History ; Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing ; Social and Cultural History

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