Fanaticism Through the Looking Glass of Simulations

Hemda Ben-Yehuda, Guy Zohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This research offers innovative ways to study fanaticism in higher education. It builds on simulations of regional crises to test four expectations and discusses their implications. The first, on the benefits of experimental learning, is supported: participants identify with their actors and show little empathy to rivals, indicating they learn the script and play seriously. So simulations provide an effective method to study fanaticism and should be used more frequently. Findings on crisis negotiations show that participants disregard fanaticism in the scenario, consider themselves as moderates, and label rivals as fanatic. Rather than admitting deadlock or defeat, they regard negotiation outcomes as compromise. These results refute three expectations: perceptions of fanaticism are not knowledge-based or bias/prejudice free; success and outcome assessment are not based on relative goal attainment; and common heuristics rather than individual inclinations shape perceptions and ways of coping with fanaticism. Together, negotiations, feedback, and in-depth debriefing on appeasement, other policy alternatives, and the role heuristics create a comprehensive simulation experience. Further applications of experimental learning in political science could enhance the role of education as a crucial means to confront fanaticism and minimize its dangers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-221
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Conflict negotiations
  • experimental learning
  • fanaticism
  • pedagogy
  • simulations


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