Conflict Templates: Thinking Through Interdependence

Conflict Templates: Thinking Through Interdependence

By
Nir Halevy, James J. Katz
Current Directions in Psychology Science. June
4, 2013, Vol. 22, Issue 3, Pages 2013

Subjective perceptions of outcome interdependence play a critical role in conflict situations. People who subscribe to different beliefs about outcome interdependence in conflict essentially play different games, with different sets of rules. Because they think they are playing different games, they experience conflict differently, behave differently, and obtain different outcomes for themselves and their counterparts. In our research, we investigated how different perceptions of outcome interdependence relate to individuals’ worldviews, motivational goals, conflict behavior, and social relations. We found that a small set of recurring patterns captures how most people think about their outcome interdependence in conflict. These subjective perceptions of outcome interdependence—that is, conflict templates—predicted conflict behavior (e.g., unethical negotiation behavior), social relations (e.g., workplace conflict and ostracism), and sociopolitical attitudes (e.g., national identification, right-wing authoritarianism) in various conflicts. Our research also shows that these perceptions can be altered by manipulating the accessibility of different motivational goals. Knowing people’s conflict templates aids in predicting the course and outcomes of their interactions and provides a simple yet powerful tool for effective conflict management.