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Conflict resolution or conflictology is the social process of resolving a dispute or a conflict. This may be between individuals, groups, organizations or political forces.


Successful conflict resolution occurs by providing each side's needs, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are each satisfied with the outcome. Conflict resolution aims to end conflicts before they start or lead to verbal, physical, or legal fighting.

More common but not popular with practitioners in conflict resolution is conflict management, where Conflict is a deliberate personal, social and organizational tool, especially used by capable politicians and other social engineers.

Strategies in conflict resolution

The application of game theory and decision theory has led to the illumination of a number of strategies that can be employed to resolve conflict. They include:

Conflict resolution in groups

Conflict resolution usually involves two or more groups with opposing views regarding specific issues, and another group or individual who is considered to be neutral in their opinion on the subject. This last bit though is quite often not entirely demanded if the "outside" group is well respected by all opposing parties. Resolution methods can include conciliation, mediation, arbitration or litigation.

These methods all require third party intervention. A resolution method which is direct between the parties with opposing views is negotiation. Negotiation can be the 'traditional' model of hard bargaining where the interests of a group far outweigh the working relationships concerned. The 'principled' negotiation model is where both the interests and the working relationships concerned are viewed as important.

It may be possible to avoid conflict without actually resolving the underlying dispute, by getting the parties to recognize that they disagree but that no further action needs to be taken at that time. In a few cases, such as in a democracy, it may even be desirable that they disagree, thus exposing the issues to others who need to consider it for themselves: in this case the parties might agree to disagree.

It is also possible to manage a conflict without resolution, in forms other than avoidance. For more, see conflict management.

Conflict resolution in non-humans

Conflict resolution has also been studied in non-human primates (see Frans de Waal, 2000). Aggression is more common among relatives and within a group, than between groups. Instead of creating a distance between the individuals, however, the primates were more intimate in the period after the aggressive incident. These intimacies consisted of grooming and various forms of body contact. Stress responses, like an increased heart rate, usually decrease after these reconciliatory signals. Different types of primates, as well as many other species who are living in groups, show different types of conciliatory behaviour. Resolving conflicts that threaten the interaction between individuals in a group is necessary for survival, hence has a strong evolutionary value. These findings contradicted previous existing theories about the general function of aggression, i.e. creating space between individuals (first proposed by Konrad Lorenz), which seems to be more the case in between groups conflicts.

In addition to research in primates, biologists are beginning to explore reconciliation in other animals. Up until recently, the literature dealing with reconciliation in non-primates have consisted of anecdotal observations and very little quantitative data. Although peaceful post-conflict behavior had been documented going back to the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1993 that Rowell made the first explicit mention of reconciliation in feral sheep. Reconciliation has since been documented in spotted hyenas, lions, dolphins, dwarf mongooses, and domestic goats.

See also

Historical bibliography for primate conflict resolution

  • de Waal, Frans B. M. and Angeline van Roosmalen. 1979. Reconciliation and consolation among chimpanzees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 5: 55-66.
  • de Waal, Frans B. M. 1989. Peacemaking Among Primates. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • Judge, Peter G. and Frans B. M. de Waal. 1993. Conflict avoidance among rhesus monkeys: coping with short-term crowding. Animal Behaviour 46: 221-232.
  • Veenema, Hans et al. 1994. Methodological improvements for the study of reconciliation. Behavioural Processes 31:29-38.
  • de Waal, Frans B. M. and Filippo Aureli. 1996. Consolation, reconciliation, and a possible cognitive difference between macaques and chimpanzees. Reaching into thought: The minds of the great apes (Eds. Anne E. Russon, Kim A. Bard, Sue Taylor Parker), Cambridge University Press, New York, NY: 80-110.
  • Aureli, Filippo. 1997. Post-conflict anxiety in non-human primates: the mediating role of emotion in conflict resolution. Aggressive Behavior 23: 315-328.
  • Castles, Duncan L. and Andrew Whiten. 1998. Post-conflict behaviour of wild olive baboons, I. Reconciliation, redirection, and consolation. Ethology 104: 126-147.
  • Aureli, Filippo and Frans B. M. de Waal, eds. 2000. Natural Conflict Resolution. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
  • de Waal, Frans B. M. 2000. Primates––A natural heritage of conflict resolution. Science 289: 586-590.
  • Silk, Joan B. 2002. The form and function of reconciliation in primates. Annual Review of Anthropology 31: 21-44.
  • Weaver, Ann and Frans B. M. de Waal. 2003. The mother-offspring relationship as a template in social development: reconciliation in captive brown capuchins (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology 117: 101-110.
  • Palagi, Elisabetta et al. 2004. Reconciliation and consolation in captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). American Journal of Primatology 62: 15-30.
  • Palagi, Elisabetta et al. 2005. Aggression and reconciliation in two captive groups of Lemur catta. International Journal of Primatology 26: 279-294.

Additional Resources

The City University of New York Dispute Resolution Consortium (CUNY DRC) serves as an intellectual home to dispute-resolution faculty, staff and students at the City University of New York and to the diverse dispute-resolution community in New York City. At the United States' largest urban university system, the CUNY DRC has become a focal point for furthering academic and applied conflict resolution work in one of the world's most diverse cities. The CUNY DRC conducts research and innovative program development, has co-organized countless conferences, sponsored training programs, resolved a wide range of intractable conflicts, published research working papers and a newsletter. It also maintains an extensive database of those interested in dispute resolution in New York City, a website with resources for dispute resolvers in New York City and since 9/11, the CUNY DRC assumed a leadership role for dispute-resolvers in New York City by establishing an extensive electronic mailing list, sponsoring monthly breakfast meetings, conducting research on responses to catastrophes, and managing a public awareness initiative to further the work of dispute resolvers.

External links

  • The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University was one of the first Masters programs in conflict resolution and is the largest recipient of Fulbright Scholars in conflict resolution.
  • CUNY Dispute Resolution Consortium- 'The Dispute Resolution Headquarters in New York City.
  • Wikia: Conflict Resolution -A wikia dedicated to conflict resolution
  • Peace Forge -A wiki dedicated to best practices in peace and conflict resolution
  • The Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution The Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University is the oldest graduate program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution in the United States and was the first PhD program in the field
  • The University for Peace The University for Peace was created in 1980 by the United Nations “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations.” It is the only University in the UN family able to grant degrees and it has eight master's programmes related to conflict resolution and peace building.
  • New Conversations Online Library Communication-skills and conflict-resolution books, essays, articles, scholarly papers & teaching materials (all free of charge in PDF or web format).
  • Peacemakers Trust Peacemakers Trust, based in Victoria, Canada, is a non-profit organization for research and education in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding with an extensive searchable online bibliography.
  • Riverhouse ePress is a web publisher of edocs on conflict resolution, including a conflict style inventory with similarities to the Thomas Kilmann inventory but with built-in cultural sensitivities, and how-to booklets on group facilitation, dialogue, and consensus-building.
  • Search For Common Ground - One of the world's largest non-government organisations dedicated to conflict resolution
  • Socratic Method Society - Uses a "modified version" of the Socratic method to resolve interpersonal conflict
  • U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution - The U.S. Institute provides a neutral place inside the federal government, but independent of other agencies, where public and private interests can reach common ground through the use of non-adversarial, interest-based negotiation.
  • Party-Directed Mediation (mediation of interpersonal conflict) - Download 'Helping Others Resolve Differences: Empowering Stakeholders.'
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