The power of national music in reducing prejudice and enhancing theory of mind among Jews and Arabs in Israel

Ehud Bodner, Yoav S. Bergman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Ethnic groups use music to promote in-group favoritism and values, but also to enhance intergroup closeness and understanding. The current study examined whether national music, often used for emphasizing intergroup separateness, can also reduce prejudice and promote theory of mind among two groups in conflict, Jews and Arabs in Israel. More specifically, the study examined whether removing a national song from its conflictual context, and introducing it in a manner which emphasizes out-group familiarity, enhances mentalization and positive attitudes between groups. Arab/Jewish women (N = 254) were randomly divided into four groups and exposed to one of two types of national Israeli songs, a Holocaust Day song (HDS), which is not associated with the Israeli-Arab conflict, or a Memorial Day song (MDS), which is aired only on days of remembrance for Israel's fallen soldiers, sung by either a Jewish or an Arab singer. The results demonstrated that exposure to a HDS enhanced theory of mind when it is sung by an Arab singer. Moreover, Arabs who heard the HDS demonstrated reduced prejudice against Jews, when compared with the MDS. The results demonstrate that national songs, which may be the epitome of in-group favoritism, can be used for promoting theory of mind even among adversarial groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-48
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Music
Issue number1
Early online date19 Apr 2016
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016.


  • minority groups
  • music
  • national songs
  • prejudice
  • theory of mind


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