Social Psychology


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Causes of Conflict

•  Conflict: A perceived  incompatibility of actions or goals.

Ψ  Social Dilemmas

• Many of the choices that we make in regards to our own self-interest can be collectively punishing.

•  The Prisoner’s Dilemma Cooperation (or its opposite: conflict) can be analysed in game theory by means of a non-zero-sum game called the "Prisoner's Dilemma" (Axelrod, 1984). The two players in the game can choose between two moves, either "cooperate" or "defect". The idea is that each player gains when both cooperate, but if only one of them cooperates, the other one, who defects, will gain more. If both defect, both lose (or gain very little) but not as much as the "cheated" cooperator whose cooperation is not returned.

• Zero-sum; There are two types of games. Zero-sum games are games where the amount of resources is fixed. Whatever is gained by one player, must be lost by the other player. Chess, for example, is a zero-sum game: it is impossible for both players to win (or to lose). The sum of what is gained (+) & what is lost (-) is zero. This is competition!  Zero-sum games (situations) increase conflict.

•  Monopoly if it is not played with the intention of having just one winner, is a non-zero-sum game. Players can cooperate to maximize their resources, "to beat the bank" rather than each other (not really the intention of the game but illustrates the non-zero-sum principle well). In non-zero-sum games the total amount gained is variable, & so players may all win or lose. Non-zero-sum games (situations) reduce conflict. Note: Most real-life conflicts are non-zero sum games.

•  The Tragedy of the Commons is a type of social trap, often economic, that involves a conflict over resources between individual interests & the common good. Everyone's business becomes nobody's business. Note: When resources are plentiful, self-interest may contribute to the health of the marketplace. Capitalism works.

Ψ  Resolving Social Dilemmas

•  Regulate
 •  Keep groups small
  •  Communicate
   •  Change the Payoffs: reward cooperation
    •  Appeal to Altruistic Norms

Ψ  Competition

•  In an experiment to test the intensity of influence competition has on conflict, Muzifer Sherif (1966), used two groups of boys to test if limited resources shared between the two groups would lead to conflict. It did.

Ψ  Perceived Injustice

•  When one feels as though their contribution to the group is worthy of a greater reward, they are either reminded of their inadequacies & become submissive to their superiors, use personal attacks or black-mail to get what they want, or actually revolt against their superiors & try to overthrow them, (Elaine Hatfield, William Walster, Ellen Pzersheid, 1978). On the other hand, it is very unlikely that someone will bring attention to themselves if they feel they are receiving more for their contribution than necessary. In these cases many will convince themselves that their work is worthy of extra benefits. Also if one is made aware that their skills exceed their rewards they are more likely to argue their worth, “The more competent & worthy people feel, (the more they value their inputs), the more they will feel under benefited & thus eager to retaliate” (Ross & others, 1971).

Ψ  Misperception

•  Since conflict is the product of a perceived incompatibility, it is likely that by misperception of others actions, most conflicts are created. This coincides with the concept of a self-serving bias, in that we often justify our own actions & take credit for our successes but justify our mistakes. At the same time we tend to judge others’ actions or motives more harshly than our own, leading us to condemn others prematurely. We can also commit  the fundamental attribution error in our misperceptions giving us a one-dimensional perception of another which can be very inaccurate.

•  Mirror Image Perceptions: It is common for two rival groups to hold each other responsible for the same sort of crimes & to consider themselves moral & virtuous for the same reasons, (Morton Deutsch, 1986).

•  Conflicts are often pursued using a politically correct illusion that its the enemy's leaders that are evil & at fault for the conflict not their people. This evil leader - good people perception is a fallacy but gives us an opportunity to save the people from their bad leaders.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates