Ongoing Victim Suffering Increases Prejudice

Ongoing Victim Suffering Increases Prejudice


Some analysts postulate that the ongoing perception of the Jew’s ongoing suffering from past injustices can lead to a rise in anti- Semitism. Some psychological theories support this view. However, there has never been empirical evidence in support of this notion of secondary anti-Semitism. In this study, Imhoff and Rainer (2009) provide the initial evidence that ongoing suffering cause a rise in prejudice towards the victims.


The study used 63 first-year students of psychology from the University of Bonn, Germany. The study participants comprised 49 women and 14 men with a mean age of 23.6 years. The researchers assessed explicit anti- Semitism using a 29-item questionnaire consisting of modern statements considered anti- Semitic. Out of the 29, the researchers developed 22 items from existing literate and the other 7 items developed to reflect the current status of anti-Semitism. In relation to implicit anti- Semitism, the study used affect misattribution procedure (AMP), which consisted of 104 trials, 54 primes, and 52 Chinese ideographs displayed once in consecutive blocks of 52 trials.

Results and Conclusion

The results, according to the zero-order correlations, exhibited a high level stability of the explicit form of anti-Semitism over a 3-month period (r=0.89, p<0.01). It also showed a moderate correlation between implicit and explicit ant- Semitism (r=0.30, p<0.01).


The results provide evidence that support the perspective ongoing suffering from past atrocities. The results have significant implications for the selection of methods for overcoming discrimination and prejudice. While it seems logical to stress victim suffering, the findings warn against such emphasis.  People should respond to the suffering of innocent people through empathy, care, and sympathy.


Imhoff, R. & Rainer, B. (2009). “Ongoing Victim Suffering Increases Prejudice: The Case of Secondary Anti- Semitism”. Association for Psychological Science, 20(12): 1443-1443.

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