The aim of this article is to demonstrate the ways in which the past matters for ethnic conflict in the present. More specifically, by presenting a socio-cognitive approach to the problem, this article sets out to specify macro-micro bridging mechanisms that explain why a history of prior conflict is likely to increase the likelihood that new conflicts will erupt. People’s inclination toward simplified and/or invalid (but often useful) inductive reasoning in the form of analogism, and their innate disposition for ordering events in teleological narratives—to which causality is typically attributed—will be of particular interest for this article. The article will also emphasize the ways in which collective memory sites become activated in such belief formation processes. For instance, the memory biases inherent in analogical reasoning often lead people to overestimate the likelihood of future conflict, which may lead them to mobilize in order to defend themselves, and/or to take preemptive action in ways that foment conflict.
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