Psychological Processes in Conflict Resolution Motivation and Thought Processes Thomas Schelling, an economist, and Morton Deutsch, a social psychologist, were the first to recognize that most conflict situations are “mixed-motive” interactions, because disputants simultaneously experience the motivation to cooperate and compete with each other. For example, someone may prefer an agreement that satisfies his or her interests over one that favors the adversary’s interests (an incentive to compete), while also preferring any agreement over no agreement (an incentive to cooperate). Cooperative versus competitive motivation is part of a broader category of social motives that also The motives underlying conflict resolution come hand in hand with roughly two cognitive tendencies, that is, ways of processing and searching for information. The first is ego defensiveness. Because individuals have a desire to develop and maintain a positive self-view, they quickly come to see themselves as benevolent and constructive and their counterparts as malevolent and competitive. When the positive self-view is threatened, people tend to become hostile and aggressive. Because social conflict inherently involves opposition and threat, disputants’ self-views are threatened continuously, and escalating spirals of increasingly hostile exchange are the rule rather than the exception. The second cognitive tendency is called naive realism and rooted in the fact that conflicts are taxing because information is incomplete and uncertain. A common strategy for people to reduce informational complexities is to act as naive realists: They assume that the world is as they perceive it; that other people view the world in that very same way; and that if their counterparts don’t, it must reflect lack of information, lack of intelligence, or ulterior motives on their part. Dual Concern Theory Developed by Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin, dual concern theory focuses on when and why individuals engage in unilateral decision making (forcing, yielding, inaction) or joint decision making (problem solving, negotiation). The basic idea is that parties have high or low aspirations and, independently, a high or low concern for their counterpart’s interests. When aspiration motivation is high and the concern for other is low, parties engage in forcing, that is, attempting to impose their goals upon the other party. When aspirations are low and concern for other is high, parties engage in yielding, giving in to their opponent’s demands and desires. When both aspirations and concern for other is low, parties engage in inaction and are predicted to remain passive. When both aspirations and concern for other is high, parties collaborate and engage in negotiation and problem solving. Ample work has revealed that problem solving is associated with more integrative agreements, reduced probability of future conflict, and enhanced interpersonal liking. Interaction Patterns Dual concern theory is fairly static and does not deal with the way disputants respond to each other’s behavior. Thus, how does Party B react when Party A remains passive and avoids interaction? Or what does Party A do when Party B suggests they sit down and find a mutually satisfying solution? Social psychologists have uncovered two principal interaction tendencies. The most powerful tendency is to reciprocate one’s counterpart’s behavior. When one takes a cooperative stance and wants to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution, the counterpart most likely reciprocates with cooperative behavior. This tendency is even stronger when one performs competitive, hostile behavior like forcing. This is because people may be tempted to exploit the other’s cooperation and thus respond to the other’s cooperative behavior with competitiveness. However, even when one is not greedy and basically inclined to cooperate, the desire not to be exploited requires one to match the other’s competitiveness. Sometimes disputants perform complementary reactions. Powerful individuals, or those with high status, who engage in forcing trigger yielding rather than forcing in their powerless counterparts. In negotiation, making lots of concessions may lead one’s counterpart to stop making concessions and to wait for you to come down even further (a strategy called mismatching). Finally, conflict interaction may take a demand-withdrawal pattern. This happens when one party desires change, whereas the counterpart desires to maintain the status quo (e.g., a traditional husband who refuses to do household chores facing his liberated wife who wants him to do an equal share). In such situations, Party A (the wife) demands and Party B (the husband) withdraws, so that the A demands with greater persistence and perseverance, whereupon B withdraws even further, and so on. Alternative forms of conflict resolution exist and clearly would serve them well.