How is negative reciprocity cultivated in an environment of violent conflict? This study investigates how students in the West Bank react to unfair proposals in an ultimatum game. Proposals submitted with Hebrew as compared to Arab handwriting are rejected more often. Israelis must offer 15 percent more of a given stake than Palestinians in order to achieve the same probability of acceptance. This willingness to lose money by rejecting proposals reveals a preference for discrimination against Israelis, cultivated in the conflict-ridden environment. Students who voice a militant attitude, surprisingly, do not reveal a higher tendency to discriminate, exercising a high degree of negative reciprocity toward all unfair proposals. But those who favor a political role for Islam have a higher inclination to discriminate. This implies that ethnic and religious cleavages do not consistently generate in-group solidarity.
There is nothing very surprising about the findings, but good research also needs to document what we would expect. In this case, that violent conflicts produce discrimination across the cleavage, and that religious identity on top of an ethnic one strengthens the level of discrimination. More generally, conflicts generate pernicious social systems that tend to replicate themselves. The micro-level findings are consistent with macro-level findings reported a few years ago in PNAS: discrimination exists in both directions across the Arab–Israeli divide in the Israel–Palestine area: Both sides retaliate in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
The article is titled Negative Reciprocity in an Environment of Violent Conflict: Experimental Evidence from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Unfortunately, the piece is gated, though it is available at Lambsdorff’s Research Gate site as well as the JCR one.