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Conflict Escalation

Psychology is a study of human behavior providing understanding why individuals and groups display certain behaviors. In trying to establish general principles and specific cases, many psychological writers have come up with various theories and concepts regarding human behavior, such as conflict escalation theory, aggression, beliefs, frames and framings, and moral psychology. In this paper, I will give my personal reflection on the above areas of psychology while identifying benefits and challenges of remedies given by psychologists.

Aggression

No survey of the psychology of conflict would be complete without spending time on aggression. The latter is caused by a conflict with an intention to hurt someone. Conflict is perceived as the incompatibility of individuals goals. According to the general aggression model, factors affecting an immediate situation are combined with conditions, which people cause and set aggression-related thoughts. For instance, persons who have positive attitudes towards aggression will often be agitated by the smallest insult to use it.

However, my opinion about the general aggression model is inclined to repetitive experiences that a person experiences in ones day-to-day life. Aggression of personalities is not inborn, but rather acquired. For, instance, a child brought up in an abusive family will grow with the mentality of abuse manifested in daily experience. The likelihood of this individual becoming abusive in his or her adult age is higher than the possibility of a child who grew up in a non-abusive family.

 

According to Craig Anderson and Bushman aggression can result in anger, violence and emotion. The first is the intention to cause physical pain to a person or property. Individuals with positive aggression attitudes are more likely to be violent. Anger is caused by emotion. Through it, aggressive individuals make judgements, which support the use of violence. However, I believe that anger is not necessarily related to aggression and violence. Since it is caused by emotions, it can be bad or good depending on the event that has led to the emotion. Yes, to some point, anger can influence a judgement that an individual will make, but it does not have to be the use of violence. On the other hand, the personal interpretation of the situation contributes to reactions of an individual. If the event is perceived as distressful, a person may choose to use violence or withdraw from the conflict which may lead to it.

In addition, the perception that individuals withdrawing from the situation are non-violent may not be true. To my mind, they are similar to those who act violently, but the only difference is the judgement that they make when the situation at hand distresses them. Moreover, the statement by Umberson et al. that violent subjects rarely reported feeling emotion; rather, they described the acting out or release of emotion through physical acts is not true. The option to withdraw or to act violently is a result of a judgment influenced by emotions. Hence, the individual is aware of possible actions of violence.

An individual with the feelings of anger and the intension to cause pain becomes hostile. He or she will be satisfied after causing pain to the conflicting party. However, an individual can be aggressive with a different motive. The intention to cause pain is not direct but as a means different from causing pain. Such an individual becomes instrumentally aggressive. There are five domain-specific theories of aggression, which include the cognitive neoassociation model. It relates individuals negative emotion with bad experiences, which turn into psychological memories. The social learning theory articulates that individuals learn of expectations of social behavior. According to the script theory, people learn certain behavior patterns through reoccurring events. The last domain, social interaction theory, explains why humans use aggression to influence certain behavior. In my opinion, the five domains of aggression are not entirely intended to cause pain. For instance, the social interaction theory has a goal of influencing specific behavior but not causing pain only. Most importantly, according to Umberson et al., anger is a feeling of distress in response to provocation. Hostility is a pervasive and enduring antagonistic mental attitude and a habit of disliking other individuals and wishing to cause them harm. Aggression is physical or verbal harm towards another individual. The act of being aggressive to others is called violence. The difference of these definitions from the ones provided by Anderson and Bushman is that Umberson et al. do not only explain aggression as causing physical harm, but also verbal.

Conflict Escalation Theory

The theory seeks to understand why conflicts escalate while answering such questions as what are stages of conflict escalation and constraints put in place to ensure propositional retribution. According to Douglas Noll, there are five stages of conflict escalation. It may involve individuals who are partners in anything. This process is characterized by a transition from the mature level of emotional development to the immature one, namely, from the first stage where individuals solve conflicts mutually to the last one where the partners have antagonistic perspectives towards each other.

From my point of view, the escalation of conflict boils down to individual emotions towards others. The stages of conflict described in the conflict escalation theory show experiences that partners go through from the point of knowing each other to the point of conflicting. The decision to control the escalation of conflict between individuals is determined by their ability to make positive judgements of their emotions. For instance, individuals who have been friends for a while may get into conflict due to a change in behavior or the realization of negative behavior of the partner that has not initially existed. If a person dislikes this character but decides to keep it to himself or herself at one point, he or she may not be able to hold feelings anymore, and the result would be a conflict. The only way to prevent the escalation of the latter is to speak out as early as possible and to exercise empathy while solving a disagreement. Escalated conflicts are a reason for hiring lawyers who receive high costs of reviewing conflict cases, which could have been solved easily through mediation. Some actions by one individual may lead to the escalation of conflict, for instance, if one is trying to make a point loudly or even shout. It may distress the emotions of the other partner. In case when the conflicting parties take their argument to court, accusations will be a misunderstanding between them. If the law finds one guilty of the offence accused, he or she will have to get punishment. People assume that the other partner got justice. However, this method of conflict resolution is not fair since justice is not equal to punishment.

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In conflict situations, individuals may retaliate, for instance, if one party accuses the other of a wrongdoing, the latter will be forced to retaliate, for example, by suing or hiring lawyers. The parties in a conflict are more likely to hire lawyers at the third stage of the conflict escalation theory. At this level, common grounds have been lost, and there is no hope for a positive outcome. Parties in a conflict hire lawyers to put pressure on the other party to change. However, the conflict escalation model suggests that conflicting individuals can come to a resolution. At the fifth stage, the parties have lost much, and various issues such as convictions, sacred values, and other obligations are at stake. The parties feel the obligation of seeking a mediator to solve the conflict, and due to its escalation, they have to go through the stages of conflict escalation. For mediators and dispute escalation experts, de-escalation implies taking the conflicting parties through the escalation stages while assisting them to find a common ground at the first stage.

Beliefs, Frames, and Framing

Frames are built upon beliefs, values and experiences, and they significantly affect the intractability of a conflict by creating a mutually incompatible interpretation of events. Therefore, a frame is the perception, which an individual may have concerning a particular issue. In a conflict, a person may be influenced by religious or traditional beliefs. In both cases, the frame of the individual will have an influence on his or her perception of the conflict. The latter is often based on the reality of the situation, and thus, this has helped in resolving conflicts, which might have otherwise escalated.

In my opinion, different forms of frames create motivated reasoning as well as bounded rationality. Individuals use such identity frames as religion, following its beliefs and core values. Christianity has the value of forgiveness and love as the greatest commandment. Thus, a conflict between Christian individuals will be easier to resolve than the one between parties with different religious backgrounds. However, framing is different from belief. Frames affect the public, and persuaders will have to use political concepts in an attempt to resolve a conflict. In beliefs, laid down values are applied to every individual and do not require persuasion. For instance, framing can be expressed regarding competence, where the conflict is resolved by favoring the winner, while ignoring views of the loser. However, if individuals follow beliefs and concepts of a certain ideology, in a conflict, a person with idealistic ideas is favored.

While using the cognitive neuroscience framework to understand neural foundations of religious beliefs, there are three dimensions of the latter. The behavior of humans is controlled to some extent by religious beliefs, and this makes them exceptional in comparison to other animals. The religious dimension is divided into three types, where first is Gods perceived level of involvement, the second one is Gods perceived emotion, and the third is values and religious knowledge involved. In my opinion, the cognitive neuroscience framework analyzing beliefs is a difficult topic to understand. Many individuals have other beliefs apart from the ones in God. Thus, modern conflict resolution experts may find it hard to resolve conflicts basing their argument on religious beliefs. In addition, in framing, individuals should be persuaded to believe in certain thinking.

Cognitive constraints involve individuals making decisions under uncertainty based on general cognitive processes and pervasive constraints, while emotional constraints cause individuals making decisions based on emotions. Such decisions are emotion-biased and motivated. In cognitive constraints, individual reasoning and decision-making are based on the environment where the individual lives. For instance, the religious background can determine the reasoning of an individual in a conflict situation. However, in case of emotional constraints, decisions depend on individuals thinking. If a person believes in the strength of violence in conflict resolution, chances of him or her becoming aggressive are high. Disbelief is another cognitive issue concerning the way individuals make decisions regarding a conflict. Since they do not have something to believe in, such people are more likely to opt for a violent resolution of a conflict, unlike those who believe in a superior being.

From the study by Harris et al., I have learned insights that will help in conflict monitoring. The conflict monitoring theory detects conflicts by processing information and signaling when top-down control is needed. The central finding of the study is the use of frames and beliefs to resolve conflicts. The finding of the study shows that individuals with beliefs are more likely to follow values of the religion when making decisions in a conflict unlike those with disbelief.

Moral Psychology

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Moral is another theme tackling conflict. It involves moral development and includes ethics, psychology and philosophy. In understanding the cause of a conflict, moral standards are used as benchmarks of its nature. Morals include ethics or expected things to do outlined by God. A good example involves prisoners and prison guards. The latter are supposed to guard the former, but in many cases, they have been reported to abuse prisoners. To understand the reason for this behavior, ethics and rules of conduct are laid down as moral standards for prison guards.

Moral ethics can involve individual, group and societal morals. The first concern an individual expected to behave in a particular manner by others, especially in case of a conflict. If the individual decides to act otherwise, the conflict may take time to be resolved. Group morals are laid-down regulations that a particular group is expected to follow. For instance, the army has such while defending the nation. For instance, if an individual goes against this code of conduct, he or she will create a conflict with the authorities.

Social morals include accepted norms. However, it is difficult to reach agreement on these morals due to different beliefs that people in society hold. For instance, cases of capital punishment and euthanasia have been topics of debates for a while. From the paradigm of moral, social behavior shows a dilemma of moral hypocrisy, moral inconsistency and struggles for moral integrity. In my opinion, moral social behavior is hypocrisy, where people tend to disagree on issues they agree on.

Moral values can be measured through obedience. For instance, Milgrams experiment researched how far individuals would go in obeying an instruction if it involved acts of aggression towards the other party. As a result, individuals are likely to follow orders given by an authority even if it means going against personal morals. However, some also tend to follow orders from superiors if they recognize their authority as being morally right. From the experiment, the power of obedience is found to be high as compared to moral perceptions. Most of the participants felt a shock due to their tendency to follow orders without questions. In that situation, I would have easily had a shock as well. However, after reading the findings of the experiment, my answers would have been different from those given by those involved in it.

Another experiment about moral psychology is one done by Zimbardo. Its aim was to investigate how individuals would act simulating prison life, if prisoners and guards had characters, making conflicts inevitable. The experiment helped me understand the behavior of gangs. Due to their setting, the latter have a dislike for the police, and this will continue being an issue of conflict forever. When an individual is affiliated to a gang, he or she has to use the thinking mentality of gangs instead of ones moral perspectives. Therefore, moral psychology is important for conflict resolution since it seeks to understand motives behind specific behavior. Psychological experts analyze why an individual behaves in a particular manner, finding ways to resolve a conflict.

Conclusion

The topic of conflict is a psychological subject, which touches on various issues, namely aggression, conflict escalation, beliefs, frames and framing, and lastly moral psychology. Various psychologists have linked these issues to aggressive tendencies of individuals who opt to use violence while resolving a conflict. Aggression has also been linked to emotional feelings of the individual towards the conflict. Other issues such as frames influence the way the latter is resolved. For instance, individuals with similar religious beliefs will follow values of their religion while solving the conflict. On the other hand, framing explains how a particular issue should be resolved and includes persuasion for individuals to believe in a frame. However, these conflict resolution methods have their challenges since society does not seem to agree on a particular moral conduct. Many individuals seem to disagree on issues that they personally agree on. This phenomenon has led to long periods of conflict resolutions in society.

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