Numerous studies suggest that past experiences of violent conflict can affect deep determinants of behaviour (see (Bauer et al. 2016)). Perhaps contrary to intuition, the consensus among these studies is that past experiences of violent conflict promote pro-social behaviour. Two important questions remain regarding this literature: (1) is the relationship observed causal? As opposed to driven by reversed causality or attrition bias; (2) if so, why does this relationship exist?
We use an experimental set-up using priming to better establish causal relationships (so far only used by (Callen et al. 2014) for economic outcomes). The study design makes use of micro-narratives as a prime, which the respondents classify themselves along various dimensions. This means that respondents are asked to recall a significant experience and analyse it using the Sensemaker framework, providing insight into the analytical frameworks people use. Half of respondents (N=400) are primed to account a micro-narrative of their conflict experiences, half is primed to account a neutral narrative, prior to playing a set of behavioural games to measure deep determinants of behaviour. This will be followed by qualitative interviews.
Qualitative research and the use of self-classified micro-narratives will enable us to unpack the mechanisms behind the relationship between exposure to violence and behaviour. We will consider subsets of respondents for whom this relationship is especially strong or weak, and detect any patterns in the narratives these sub-groups tell.
We also reflect on the methodological lessons we have learned from using this integrated research design, including a consideration of how those at the receiving end of behavioural experiment experienced this type of research. Has this approach given us more rigorous and grounded insights—and can these insights help in developing better policies and programme approaches?