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Conﬂict and Conﬂict Resolution, SocialPsychology of
The term ‘conﬂict’ has two broad meanings:
, which refers to clashing actions by two ormore parties, as in a ﬁst ﬁght or war, and
,whichreferstoperceiveddivergenceofinterestor annoyance attributed to another party. Subjectiveconﬂict is often a source of overt conﬂict, as whenannoyance about a neighbor’s loud music leads to ashouting match. But subjective conﬂict can produceother outcomes as well, including use of the followingfour basic strategies: contending, problem solving,yielding, and inaction. Only one of these, contending,leads to overt conﬂict.Conﬂict occurs at all levels of society, from theinterpersonal to the international, and hence is of interest to most branches of the social and behavioralsciences. Conﬂict has attracted the attention of re-searchers because of its large costs and beneﬁts. Costsare incurred when conﬂict escalates to the point of harming relationships, destroying property, or injur-ing people. Beneﬁts accrue because conﬂict presidesover most signiﬁcant social change; contributes tosolidarity within conﬂicting groups; and in its milderforms, often leads to the reconciliation of legitimateinterests, thus strengthening relationships and safe-guarding the peace.
1. Sources of Conﬂict
The modern socialpsychology of conﬂict began with ademonstration ﬁeld experiment by Sherif (1966).Sherifranseveralsummercampsinwhichheproducedovert conﬂict between two cabins of preadolescentboys and then resolved this conﬂict. Conﬂict wasproduced by means of the two sources of subjectiveconﬂict mentioned above: divergence of interest (forexample, competitive games) and annoyance attri-buted to the other group (for example, the counselorsvandalized onecabins’campgrounds and blamed it onthe other cabin).Whatconditionsproducedivergenceofinterestandannoyance from others? One answer is scarce re-sources. A second is role diﬀerentiation that producesdisparate values, as between buyer and seller, parentand child, sales and production. A third is anycondition that causes aspirations to rise rapidly (suchas a sudden improvement in outcomes) or to becomeinconsistent with those of another party (such asambiguity about which party is more powerful). Afourth is any source of distrust, because distrust tendsto block cooperation and produce defensive behavior,which often annoys or frightens the other party.When groups rather than individuals are involved,additional mechanisms encourage conﬂict. Groupsare less trusted than individuals. Also, a perceptionthat one’s group is deprived relative to a reasonablestandard (
) has been shownto be a major source of political conﬂict. Arguing thatSherif’s ‘realistic conﬂict theory’ is too narrow, Tajfel(1978) proposes that intergroup conﬂict often arisesbecause group members compete with other groups inan eﬀort to feel good about their social identity andhence about themselves. Another unique aspect of groups is the role of leadership. Leaders and would-beleaders often dramatize frustration at the hands of other groups, exacerbating conﬂicts while strength-ening their position with their constituents.
2. Strategic Choice in Conﬂict
Rubin et al. (1994) have put forward a
of the psychological states that aﬀect choice2531
Conﬂict and Conﬂict Resolution, Social Psychology of