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Why do presumably innocent and sane people commit mass murder during a genocide? With this question, many have investigated the different social environments that develop in genocides to understand the factors that have led to the massacre of groups of people. Using the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust, this project studies the history of these horrific events and the psychological concepts used to explain some of the influences that may have allowed for specific behaviors. While genocides cannot be explained in their entirety, in part because they cannot be replicated in laboratory settings, many theories, such as dehumanization and obedience to authority, have been analyzed in order to understand the genocidal actions that take place. Additionally, researchers have explored experiments such as the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment and have applied them to genocides as a whole. This project will review such research papers to investigate the change in behavior among the perpetrators of the genocide and relate them specifically to the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust. Answering the question of why people seem to become more violent during a genocide is sometimes thought of as a path to the solution to ending genocides. However, within the groups of people that are influenced by social factors, some individuals do not act in the predicted manner and thus seem less susceptible to those influences. Dehumanization and cognitive dissonance may both be essential in contributing to the decrease in the likelihood of a person becoming susceptible to the social influences of genocides.
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Sinclair, Sydnie Madge Johnson, "Cream of the Crop or Bottom of the Barrel: An Exploration of the Variability in Susceptibility to Social Influences Present in Genocides" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 25.