Dr. Emile Bruneau is a social and cognitive scientist who is director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and lead scientist at the Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab. His research is focused on better understanding the psychological and cognitive biases that drive intergroup conflict, and critically examining the impact of interventions aimed at decreasing intergroup hostility. Specifically, he focuses on the (lack of) empathy and dehumanization that often characterize intergroup conflicts, and how empathy and humanity can potentially be restored through virtual and media-based encounters with ‘the other’. His recent efforts are focused on hostility towards minority groups (e.g., Islamophobia, anti-Roma bias), and between groups in conflict (e.g., Israelis and Palestinians). His work has received funding from the UN, US Institute for Peace, Soros Foundation, DARPA, ONR, and DRAPER Laboratories.

Dr. Bruneau’s recent work on empathic failures and the Roma minority population was featured in the New York Times Magazine, and his work on neuroimaging and dehumanization has been covered by a number of media outlets, from the BBC to Scientific American. In 2015, Dr. Bruneau received a Bok Center Award for teaching at Harvard, and was honored with the Ed Cairns Early Career Award in Peace Psychology.

Selected Publications

A novel measure of blatant dehumanization reveals that this perception is prevalent in Western societies, and a potent predictor of intergroup hostility. [Download: 2015JPSP.pdf]

Distinct brain regions are associated with empathizing for others’ physical pain versus their emotional suffering. [Download: 2012Neuropsychologia.pdf]

Experimental online encounters between Israelis and Palestinians reveal the asymmetric psychological needs that help foster reconciliation in asymmetric conflicts. [Download: 2012JESP.pdf]

A vision for how neuroimaging can be used to help drive our understanding of conflict resolution – ‘putting neuroscience to work for peace’. [Download: 2015NeurosciencePeace.pdf]

Collectively blaming groups for the actions of individuals can license vicarious retribution. Acts of terrorism by Muslim
extremists against innocents, and the spikes in anti-Muslim hate crimes against innocent Muslims that follow, suggest that
reciprocal bouts of collective blame can spark cycles of violence. How can this cycle be short-circuited? After establishing a
link between collective blame of Muslims and anti-Muslim attitudes and behavior, we used an “interventions tournament” to
identify a successful intervention (among many that failed). The “winning” intervention reduced collective blame of Muslims
by highlighting hypocrisy in the ways individuals collectively blame Muslims—but not other groups (White Americans,
Christians)—for individual group members’ actions. After replicating the effect in an independent sample, we demonstrate
that a novel interactive activity that isolates the psychological mechanism amplifies the effectiveness of the collective blame
hypocrisy intervention and results in downstream reductions in anti-Muslim attitudes and anti-Muslim behavior.