Conflict and Peacemaking
Thomas (1990) stated that conflict occurs when one individual or group perceives that another individual or group has caused or will cause harm. The types of conflict vary, and, for instance, can include individuals or groups in an athletic contest or nations in a war. Conflict can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the most common causes is competition for limited resources. For people who live or work together, space is often a source of conflict. (Who gets the larger office or room? How is furniture arranged?) How income is spent can be the source of marital conflict. Indeed, wars between nations are often due to territorial conflict or competition for limited resources. Poor communication can be a factor in marital conflict, group unrest, employee discontent, and even international hostilities. In fact, Baron and colleagues (1990) reported that ineffective communication is the greatest contributor to conflict in work situations. Social psychologists and those working in the field of peace psychology are interested in reducing destructive conflict. A number of conflict management techniques have been identified by researchers (Barash, 1991). Because poor communication is often a cause of a conflict, improving communication between sides can help resolve differences, as shown earlier in the prisoner's dilemma game. Sometimes a third-party mediator, such as a marriage counselor, a courtroom judge, or the United Nations, is needed (Lim & Carneval, 1990). Labor negotiations may involve an outside arbitrator. Conflict is sometimes reduced when the opposing sides work together on some common goal (called a superordinate goal). For instance, nations that were previously at war can become allies when confronted by a common enemy (Barash, 1991). Christie (1997) pointed out that a goal of peace psychology is to help people find peaceful means to satisfy their needs for security and identity. One of the goals of peace psychologists has been to increase coverage of peace and conflict in traditional psychology courses (Nelson & Christie, 1995). The most common method of effectively resolving conflict is bargaining. Although circumstances vary widely, bargaining involves both sides making a series of offers and counteroffers so that an acceptable agreement can be reached. The effective bargaining strategy called GRIT (graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension reduction) was proposed by Charles Osgood (1962). In the GRIT procedure, one side announces that it wants to reduce tension and then makes a small conciliatory act. Then it is up to the other side to compromise also. GRIT has been effective in increasing cooperation and trust in laboratory simulations, and peace psychologists are investigating its use in international conflicts (Milburn & Christie, 1989). Obviously, the ideal outcome is when both sides can cooperate and enjoy mutual success.

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What Makes Kids Care? Teaching Gentleness in a Violent World A report by APA on violence and prosocial behavior, with information on how children might be taught to help others.
A Guide to the Mideast Peace Process