Philosopher George Santayana is probably best known for his aphorism "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Today a research team led by Professor Rezarta Bilali is looking not at the question of whether groups should remember the past as Santayana’s quote implies, but whether they acknowledge the injustices and harm they have committed on others. The research team, supported by the American Psychological Foundation and the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, aims to develop and test strategies to increase acknowledgment of harm committed by groups.
With Katherine Lacasse, a PhD candidate at Clark University, the team is designing experimental studies to test strategies that target the mechanisms producing denials and justifications of in-group’s harm doing, while at the same time fostering the conditions that lead to acknowledgment and restitution of harm.
On another front, Rima Mahmoud, an alumna of the McCormack Graduate School Conflict Resolution program, with Colina Cole and Muhamed Hasan, both master’s students in the program, is working on identifying and investigating practices around the world focusing on confronting in-group’s history in order to gain insights from practitioners about the principles that have been successful in promoting a critical understanding of history.
Information pertaining to the grants and Bilali’s research was published in a December 11, 2012 American Psychology Association article, “Donor support of psychology continues to change how we see and live our lives.”