University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Since 2010, behavioral science researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business have been surveying Seeds of Peace participants for a longitudinal study of intergroup contact theory in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The researchers test the effectiveness of a “neutral setting” intervention by measuring attitudes towards the other side immediately before and after the contact intervention, our Camp, and again nine months after participants “re-enter” their home countries.

They aim to understand the extent to which positive relationships between antagonistic groups predict future attitudes towards that group, and whether they result in more positive feelings towards the “other” which are then sustained over time. They are advancing contact theory by examining predictors of attitude change, as well as producing one of the first quantitative investigations of the influence of contact after re-entry to home countries.

The current study is one of only a handful that uses a longitudinal design to examine the extent to which an intergroup contact experience can influence long-term attitudes. The findings have been published in the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations and in an op-ed in The New York Times.

“My experience with Seeds of Peace brought me to the field of social psychology. Watching these incredible teenagers wrestle with their beliefs—integrating the negative information that they have been taught about other groups with the positive personal experiences they enjoy at Camp—inspired me to study the processes that underlie people’s beliefs, judgments, and decisions. More than 15 years after first being inspired, I was fortunate to partner with Seeds of Peace to study the causes and consequences of attitude change through contact. Each year we learn more and I look forward to the insights that continue to emerge.” — Jane Risen, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science and William Ladany Faculty Scholar