The Hostile Suffering Effect: Mediated Encounters With the Suffering of Opponents, Recognition, and Moral Concern in Protracted Asymmetrical Conflict

Rotem Nagar, Ifat Maoz


Few studies have empirically examined how and to what extent media exposure to representations of the suffering of opponents in conflicts affects audiences’ responses. Using public opinion polling (N = 671), we examine, in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the extent to which exposure to media coverage of the suffering of opponents predicts empathy toward the opponents and willingness to recognize their suffering. In line with our hypotheses, the findings demonstrate a hostile suffering effect in which higher exposure to media coverage of Palestinian pain and suffering predicts decreased Jewish-Israeli willingness to recognize this suffering. This association is mediated by decreased empathy toward Palestinians. The implications of our findings for understanding the role of the media in eliciting moral concern are discussed.


mediated suffering, recognition, hostile media effect, witnessing, empathy, media coverage in conflict, moral concern, protracted conflict, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, public opinion

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