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Women or men - who will bring peace?

We all know the common expression: "Men are from Mars and women are from Manga", but are men and women also distinctly different in the way they conduct war and conflicts? What does digital games have to do with this? And what does this mean regarding who is desired to head the ruling parties in Israel?

Dr. Ronit Kempf. Photo: Tel Aviv University Spokesperson
Dr. Ronit Kempf. Photo: Tel Aviv University spokesperson

Dr. Ronit Kempf is one of the popular lecturers in the Department of Communication, and not without reason. She teaches courses on digital natives (and if you don't know what the phrase means, you probably aren't digital natives, that is, you were born before 1980) and in the framework of them, the students experiment with digital games dealing with conflicts in different parts of the world. In her popular classes, Dr. Kempf examines the manner and extent to which digital games can be used as a learning tool for young people regarding charged political issues, and also deals with the question of why games are an effective learning tool.

We met her to talk about her new research conducted at Tel Aviv University, which examines how young Israelis and Cypriots play a digital game about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Cypriot conflict.

A woman who played with a man in a computer simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was asked how she would have played with a woman and replied: "We argued a lot and he forced moves on me that I did not agree with. I believe that with a woman it would have been much easier to reach an agreement and my actions would have been different, I don't know to what extent but they would certainly have changed and there would have been more dialogue." Another woman, who played with a woman in the simulation, commented on the interaction between them during the game: "I can't say that I'm convinced that everything Ayelet suggested was right... I didn't agree with everything she suggested, but we talked about it and discussed the different options. It opened my mind and hers to different views about the conflict.”

Simulating scenarios and examining strategies

The computer simulation is a name game Peacemaker Which Dr. Kempf has researched in recent years and tested: who wins more in a computer simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - male couples or female couples?
Peacemaker is a serious game that deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that is, software developed using game technologies, in accordance with the principles of game design, for a purpose other than entertainment only - such as education, security or health. Serious games like  Peacemaker offer a unique opportunity to simulate real-world scenarios and examine different conflict resolution strategies, as well as provide a controlled environment to investigate the impact of gender on these processes.

Over the years, many approaches and strategies have been proposed to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ranging from diplomatic negotiations to military operations. Studies show that relative to men, women hold ionic positions regarding the conflict (Herman and Yaar, 2021) and are more inclined to diplomatic actions rather than military actions. Dr. Kempf's research claims that the differences between the sexes in attitudes and strategies for conflict resolution may also extend to virtual environments.

Who were the participants in the game and how was it conducted?

"The game was attended by 150 Israeli students from various academic institutions in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, mainly Tel Aviv University," explains Dr. Kempf. "Half of them were women and half were men. They were randomly assigned to play at PeacemakerIn couples of women, couples of men or mixed gender couples. They were asked to play the game in pairs and make a joint decision about each move in the game. The couples had to play until they won the game - meaning they resolved the conflict - or until they lost the game - meaning they failed to resolve the conflict."

Does the gender point of view allow us to understand how it is possible to reach a settlement of the stubborn conflict? Do women resolve conflicts better than men? Are couples better than singles?

"The study clearly shows that couples of women resolved the conflict in the game Peacemaker At a higher rate - 1.5 times more than male couples and mixed gender couples. Couples resolve the conflict at a higher rate than single players regardless of their gender, but in another study it was found that even in singles games women resolved the conflict more than men, although by a small but significant difference."

Do women gamers demonstrate ionic behavior in other games as well?

"Women tend to show ionic behavior and understanding towards the other side in general and not only in games about conflicts. For example, also in fighting and war games like GTA  או World of Warcraft Women show an ionic, empathic and altruistic behavior that often helps them succeed in the game just as much as men and sometimes even more."

How did political and religious positions affect the interaction between the couples and the resolution of the conflict in the game?

"Most of the participants in the study had center-left positions and only a minority of them were right-wing. There was also a minority of religious people and a secular majority among the participants. A-B-L Studies show that right-wingers manage to win inPeacemaker No less than leftists and that a political position does not serve as a factor that explains good game performance and winning the game. It is interesting to note that couples who held opposite political positions managed to win the game just as much as those who held identical political positions."

What conclusion can be drawn from the game about political life in Israel - who would fit better in the shoes of the Israeli Prime Minister... a man or a woman?

"Another study examined Knesset members who played as individuals inPeacemaker In the role of the Israeli Prime Minister, here too it was discovered that members of the Knesset succeeded in solving the conflict in the game more than members of the Knesset. This has the effect of hinting at how the persistent Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved through the gender prism, and hence the question arises: if more women fill senior positions and leadership positions in Israel - will they be able to bring the persistent and ongoing conflict to an end?"

"The game raises the possibility that if more women fill senior positions in Israel they might be able to bring the ongoing conflict to an end. But even if there will not soon be a woman at the head of the Israeli leadership, the combination of women alongside men in leadership positions increases the chance of resolving the conflict compared to a situation where there is only male leadership. Therefore, one should strive to diversify senior positions in Israel in terms of gender. Although two are better than two, but both head and head can fit together better in the shoes of the Israeli leadership." Dr. Kempf concludes.

More of the topic in Hayadan:


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