III. The Social Psychology of Social War

What accounts for the race effects observed in these studies? And, more generally, why is it that we, as a nation, have continued to enact laws and policies that have devastated such a large segment of our adolescent population? In part, we can blame the social psychology of social war. This Part summarizes a wealth of contemporary research that shows that humans react to, interpret, and make decisions about the environment, and each other, largely from a series of unconscious cognitive associations and dissociations. When stimulated or primed, these processes are automatic; they happen whether we want them to or not. Importantly, several studies conducted over the last decade suggest that the political posturing, media imagery, war rhetoric, and Manichean moralizing associated with the super-predator war, and with American social wars in general, have an especially potent effect on this dynamic. These images and ideas influence not only the content of our stereotypes of the enemy, but also the degree to which we rely on those stereotypes. Ultimately, they also influence our willingness to embrace measures that punish and incapacitate the enemy.