Smadar Cohen-Chen

Dr Smadar Cohen-Chen

Lecturer (Department of People and Organisations)
Phone Number 01483 683995



Smadar Cohen-Chen received a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Sheffield in 2015. She held a position as a visiting assistant professor in the Dispute Resolution Research Center, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Smadar's research focuses on how emotions influence intergroup relations and conflict, as well as ways to regulate these emotions. In particular, she studies the role of hope in social contexts, including conflict management and negotiations, collective action and decision making. Along these lines, she develops experimental techniques to induce and regulate hope.





Research interests

My teaching

My publications


Shuman E, Cohen S, Hirsch-Hoefler S, Halperin E (2016) Explaining normative versus non-normative action: The role of implicit theories, Political Psychology Wiley
The current research investigates what motivates people to engage in normative versus nonnormative action. Prior research has shown that different emotions lead to different types of action. We argue that these differing emotions are determined by a more basic characteristic, namely, implicit theories about whether groups and the world in general can change. We hypothesized that incremental theories (beliefs that groups/the world can change) would predict normative action, and entity theories (beliefs that groups/the world cannot change) as well as group identification would predict nonnormative action. We conducted a pilot in the context of protests against a government plan to relocate Bedouin villages in Israel and a main study during the Israeli social protests of the middle class. Results revealed three distinct pathways to collective action. First, incremental theories about the world predicted hope, which predicted normative action. Second, incremental theories about groups and group identification predicted anger, which also predicted normative collective action. Lastly, entity theories about groups predicted nonnormative collective action through hatred, but only for participants who were highly identified with the group. In sum, people who believed in the possibility of change supported normative action, whereas those who believed change was not possible supported nonnormative action.
Kudish S, Cohen S, Halperin E (2015) Increasing support for concession-making in intractable conflicts: The role of conflict uniqueness, Peace and Conflict: journal of peace psychology21(2)pp. 248-263 American Psychological Association
Intractable conflicts are a severe type of intergroup conflict. When people who perceive themselves as involved in such conflicts learn of other conflicts being resolved around the world, they often explain this by contending that their conflict is unique, and thus justify their perception of its irresolvability. Accordingly, across 3 studies, we examined the hypothesis that the perception of conflict uniqueness is negatively associated with support for concession-making and that when the conflict is perceived as unique, it is also perceived as irresolvable. Study 1 established the perception of the conflict as unique as a new variable, which is distinct from other and more specific unique aspects of conflicts. Additionally, it revealed a negative association between this perception and support for concession-making. In Studies 2 and 3, we demonstrated that the effect of a perception of conflict uniqueness on support for concession-making is moderated by malleability beliefs regarding conflicts in general. Results have both theoretical and practical implications regarding the ability to increase support for concession-making in intractable conflicts.
Rosler N, Cohen S, Halperin E (2015) The distinctive effects of empathy and hope in intractable conflicts, Journal of Conflict Resolution: research on war and peace between and within nations Sage
The goal of the current research was to examine how discrete positive intergroup emotional phenomena affect conflict-related attitudes in different contexts of intractable conflict. We hypothesized that empathy, but not hope would be negatively associated with aggressive attitudes during escalation, while hope, but not empathy would be associated with conciliatory attitudes during de-escalation. In study 1, we examined our hypotheses within a correlational design in an emotioninducing context, while in study 2 a two-wave survey was conducted during reallife events within the context of the Israeli?Palestinian conflict; a peace summit as well as a war. Both studies supported our hypotheses, thus indicating the unique, yet complimentary, contribution of each of the two emotional phenomena to the advancement of peace.
Cohen S, Crisp RJ, Halperin E (2016) A New Appraisal-Based Framework Underlying Hope in Conflict Resolution, Emotion Review Sage
Hope is a positive emotion that plays a pivotal role in intractable conflicts and conflict resolution processes by inducing conciliatory attitudes for peace. As a catalyser for conflict resolution, it is important to further understand hope in such contexts. In this paper we present a novel framework for understanding hope in contexts of intergroup conflict. Utilizing appraisal theory of emotions and heavily relying on the implicit theories framework, we describe three targets upon which hope appraisals focus in intractable conflict - the conflict, the outgroup, and the ingroup. Next, we describe the importance of developing ways to experimentally induce hope, and utilize the appraisal-target framework to describe and classify existing and potential interventions for inducing hope in intractable conflict resolution.
Cohen S, Halperin E, Crisp J, Gross JJ (2014) Hope in the Middle East: Malleability beliefs, hope, and the willingness to compromise for peace,Social Psychological and Personality Science5(1)pp. 67-75 Sage
The importance of hope has long been asserted in the field of conflict resolution. However, little is actually known about either how to induce hope or what effects hope has on conciliatory attitudes. In the current research, we tested whether (1) hope is based upon beliefs regarding conflict malleability and (2) hope predicts support for concessions for peace. Study 1, a correlational study conducted among Israeli Jews, revealed that malleability beliefs regarding conflicts in general are associated with hope regarding the Israeli?Palestinian conflict as well as with support for concessions. In Study 2, we established causality using an experimental manipulation of beliefs regarding conflicts being malleable (vs. fixed). Findings have both theoretical and practical implications regarding inducing hope in intractable conflicts, thus promoting the attitudes so critical for peacemaking.
Wohl MJA, Cohen S, Halperin E, Caouette J, Hayes N, Hornsey MJ (2015) Belief in the Malleability of Groups Strengthens the Tenuous Link Between a Collective Apology and Intergroup Forgiveness, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin41(5)pp. 714-725 Sage
Although it is widely assumed that collective apologies for intergroup harms facilitate forgiveness, evidence for a strong link between the two remains elusive. In four studies we tested the proposition that the apology?forgiveness link exists, but only among people who hold an implicit belief that groups can change. In Studies 1 and 2, perceived group malleability (measured and manipulated, respectively) moderated the responses to an apology by Palestinian leadership toward Israelis: Positive responses such as forgiveness increased with greater belief in group malleability. In Study 3, university students who believed in group malleability were more forgiving of a rival university?s derogatory comments in the presence (as opposed to the absence) of an apology. In Study 4, perceived perpetrator group remorse mediated the moderating effect of group malleability on the apology?forgiveness link (assessed in the context of a corporate transgression). Implications for collective apologies and movement toward reconciliation are discussed.
Cohen S, Crisp RJ, Halperin E (2016) Hope Comes in Many Forms Out-Group Expressions of Hope Override Low Support and Promote Reconciliation in Conflicts, Social Psychological and Personality Science Sage
In conflicts, political attitudes are based to some extent on the perception of the outgroup as sharing the goal of peace and supporting steps to achieve it. However, intractable conflicts are characterized by inconsistent and negative interactions, which prevent clear messages of outgroup support. This problem calls for alternative ways to convey support between groups in conflict. One such method is emotional expressions. The current research tested whether, in the absence of outgroup support for peace, observing expressions of outgroup hope induces conciliatory attitudes. Results from two experimental studies, conducted within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, revealed support for this hypothesis. Expressions of Palestinian hope induced acceptance of a peace agreement through Israeli hope and positive perceptions of the proposal when outgroup support expressions were low. Findings demonstrate the importance of hope as a means of conveying information within processes of conflict resolution, overriding messages of low outgroup support for peace.
Research on intergroup emotions has largely focused on the experience of emotions and surprisingly little attention has been given to the expression of emotions. Drawing on the social-functional approach to emotions, we argue that in the context of intergroup conflicts, outgroup members? expression of disappointment with one?s ingroup induces the complementary emotion of collective guilt and correspondingly a collective action protesting ingroup actions against the outgroup. In Study 1 conducted immediately after the 2014 Gaza war, Jewish-Israeli participants received information about outgroup?s (Palestinians) expression of emotions (disappointment, fear, or none). As predicted, outgroup?s expression of disappointment increased collective guilt and willingness to participate in collective action, but only among those who saw the intergroup situation as illegitimate. Moreover, collective guilt mediated the relationship between disappointment expression and collective action, moderated, again, by legitimacy perception. In Study 2, we replicated these results in the context of racial tension between Black and White Americans in the US. We discuss the theoretical and applied implications of the findings.
Cohen S, Halperin E, Saguy T, van Zomeren M (2014) Beliefs about the malleability of immoral groups facilitate collective action, Social Psychological and Personality Science5(2)pp. 203-210 Sage
Although negative out-group beliefs typically foster individuals? motivation for collective action, we propose that such beliefs may diminish this motivation when people believe that this out-group cannot change in its very essence. Specifically, we tested the idea that believing in the malleability of immoral out-groups (i.e., targets of collective action) should increase collective action tendencies through group efficacy beliefs. Study 1 revealed that the more strongly participants believed that immoral out-groups could change as a function of contextual influences, the stronger their collective action tendencies were due to increased group efficacy. In Study 2, we experimentally replicated these findings using a manipulation of individuals? beliefs about immoral out-groups being potentially malleable (vs. fixed). We discuss implications of our findings with an eye on the literature on collective action and implicit beliefs and on the promotion of civic engagement more broadly.
Cohen S, van Zomeren M, Halperin E (2015) Hope(lessness) and (in)action in intractable intergroup conflict, In: Christie DJ, Halperin E, Sharvit K (eds.), The Social Psychology of Intractable Conflicts277pp. 89-101 Springer International Publishing
One of intractable conflict?s unique characteristics is the perception of irresolvability, which is closely associated with the development of hopelessness. Bar-Tal?s influential work has pointed to the lack of hope as becoming an inherent part of the conflict?s psychological infrastructure, which ultimately perpetuates intractable conflict by inducing indifference and inaction. Hope, on the other hand, has been suggested as an important emotion within conflict resolution processes. One behavioral manifestation of hope may be action to achieve social change, or in this context, to achieve peace. However, while both parties? best interest may seem to lie in peace, collective action towards achieving it is not common in such situations because the conflict?s nature itself removes all hope and scope for such social change. In this chapter, we examine what makes collective action within the context of intractable conflicts unique, comparing and distinguishing it from more traditional forms of collective action. We utilize existing work to offer some hope that collective action within intractable conflicts may be achieved.
Cohen S, Halperin E, Porat R, Bar-Tal D (2014) The differential effects of hope and fear on information processing in intractable conflict, Journal of Social and Political Psychology2(1)pp. 11-30 Psychopen
Emotional barriers have been found to play a critical role in forming attitudes and behaviors in conflict and peace-making. A major effect of such affective barriers is cognitive freezing, which reduces openness to new information and opportunities to conflict resolution. In the current research, we examined the hypothesis that hope and fear have opposite effects on information processing in such contexts. A time-lagged correlational study with 222 Israeli-Jews was conducted using a new computerized information processing simulator. Results revealed that when faced with an opportunity for peace, long-term hope was associated with acquiring information in favor of accepting the opportunity, whereas fear was associated with acquiring information that was biased towards rejecting the opportunity. Results also showed that both emotions were not associated with the amount of information gathered by participants. Findings have both theoretical and practical implications regarding the differential roles of hope and fear in identifying opportunities for, and promoting, conflict resolution.
Halperin E, Cohen S, Goldenberg A (2014) Indirect emotion regulation in intractable conflicts: A new approach to conflict resolution, European Review of Social Psychology25(1)pp. 1-31
Intractable conflicts pose a great challenge to both humanity and science. The crucial role played by intergroup emotions in conflict dynamics has long been asserted in the field of conflict resolution. Therefore, regulating emotions in order to change attitudes and behaviour towards promoting peace is vital. One way to transform emotions is to use established emotion regulation strategies to change intergroup emotional experiences, and subsequently political positions. However, the use of direct emotion regulation may pose challenges in its application outside the laboratory, and especially among those who lack the motivation to regulate their emotions. Thus we describe recent research in which Indirect Emotion Regulation is used to overcome those very limitations. Here concrete cognitive appraisals are indirectly altered, leading to attitude change by transforming discrete emotions. Discoveries have both theoretical and practical implications regarding emotion regulation in intractable conflicts, thus promoting attitudes so critical for peace making.
Cohen S, Crisp RJ, Halperin E (2015) Perceptions of a Changing World Induce Hope and Promote Peace in Intractable Conflicts,Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin41(4)pp. 498-512 Sage
The importance of hope in promoting conciliatory attitudes has been asserted in the field of conflict resolution. However, little is known about conditions inducing hope, especially in intractable conflicts, where reference to the outgroup may backfire. In the current research, five studies yielded convergent support for the hypothesis that hope for peace stems from a general perception of the world as changing. In Study 1, coders observed associations between belief in a changing world, hope regarding peace, and support for concessions. Study 2 revealed the hypothesized relations using self-reported measures. Studies 3 and 4 established causality by instilling a perception of the world as changing (vs. unchanging) using narrative and drawing manipulations. Study 5 compared the changing world message with a control condition during conflict escalation. Across studies, although the specific context was not referred to, the belief in a changing world increased support for concessions through hope for peace.
Goldenberg A, Cohen Smadar, Goyer J, Dweck C, Gross J, Halperin E (2018) Testing the Impact and Durability of a Group Malleability Intervention in the Context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,Proceedings of the National Academy of Science115(4)pp. 696-701 National Academy of Sciences
Fostering perceptions of group malleability (teaching people that groups are capable of change and improvement) has been shown to lead to short-term improvements in intergroup attitudes and willingness to make concessions in intractable conflicts. The present study, a field intervention involving 508 Israelis from three locations in Israel, replicated and substantially extended those findings by testing the durability of a group malleability intervention over a six-month period of frequent violence. Three different 5-hour interventions were administered as leadership workshops: The group malleability intervention was compared to a neutral coping intervention and, importantly, to a state-of-the-art perspective-taking intervention. The group malleability intervention proved superior to the coping intervention in improving attitudes, hope, and willingness to make concessions, and maintained this advantage over a 6-month period of intense intergroup conflict. Moreover, it was as good as, and in some respects superior to, the perspective-taking intervention. These findings provide the first naturalistic examination of the potential of group malleability interventions to increase openness to conflict resolution.
Cohen-Chen Smadar, van Zomeren M (2018) Yes We Can? Group Efficacy Beliefs Predict Collective Action, But Only When Hope is High,Journal of Experimental Social Psychology77pp. 50-59 Elsevier
Surprisingly, hope is under-researched in contemporary social-psychological explanations of collective action and social change. This may be because collective action research typically focuses on ?high-hope? contexts in which it is generally assumed that change is possible (the main appraisal of hope), and thus the main question is whether ?we? can change the situation through collective action (i.e., group efficacy beliefs). This line of thought implies that such beliefs should only motivate collective action when hope is high. To test this hypothesis, we conducted three experiments in contexts that were not ?high-hope?. In Study 1, conducted within the ?low-hope? context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we found that manipulated group efficacy beliefs did not increase individuals? collective action intentions. Studies 2 and 3 used the contexts of NHS privatization in the United Kingdom and Gun Control Reform in the United States --- contexts that were neither ?low-hope? nor ?high-hope?, which enabled us to manipulate hope and group efficacy beliefs together in one design. Consistent with our hypothesis, findings of both experiments revealed that group efficacy beliefs only predicted collective action when hope was high. Replicating Study 1, when hope was low, group efficacy had no effect on collective action intentions. We discuss our findings in light of the idea that only when hope for social change is established, the question of whether ?we? can create change through collective action becomes relevant. Without hope, there can be no basis for agency, which informs goal-directed action.
Cohen-Chen Smadar, van Kleef Gerben A., Crisp Richard J., Halperin Eran (2019) Dealing in hope: Does observing hope expressions increase conciliatory attitudes in intergroup conflict?,Journal of Experimental Social Psychology83pp. 102-111 Elsevier Inc.
The emotion of hope has been found to play a pivotal role in intergroup conflict resolution processes. As a positive and motivating emotion, prominent group members, such as group leaders or representatives may wish to instill hope among ingroup members. One method that can be employed to instill hope is to express hope as confirmation for a specific path's merit. Three studies examined the effect of ingroup hope expressions on intergroup attitudes in conflict. Study 1 was conducted within the context of student-government relations in the UK. Results demonstrated that expressions of high hope (vs. low hope) increased support for an opportunity for conflict resolution by instilling hope among ingroup members. In Study 2 we used a fictitious conflict scenario regarding a conflict with an invading alien nation, and found that the leader's hope expressions increased support for a proposal compared to expressions of positive expectations in light of the proposal. Lastly, Study 3 was conducted within the extreme and intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Findings showed that ideology moderated the effect such that expressions of hope increased support for the proposal via experienced hope in ingroup members. However, this effect was only found among Leftists, while Rightists were not affected. Findings indicate the importance of hope expressions in shaping attitudes toward opportunities for intergroup conflict resolution, while emphasizing the importance of understanding how observers interpret such expressions and are affected by them.
Cohen Smadar (2020) Feel Good or Do Good? A Valence / Function Framework for Understanding Emotions,Current Directions in Psychological Science SAGE Publications

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