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DIVERSITY AND ETHNIC CONFLICTS LECTURE 10
Conflict • What kindles conflict? • Social psychological studies have identified several ingredients.
Conflict • What’s striking is that the ingredients are common to all levels of social conflict, whether international, intergroup, or interpersonal.
Social Dilemmas • Several of the problems that threaten the future – nuclear arms, global warming, overpopulation, and natural resource depletion -- arise as different parties pursue their self-interest, ironically, to their collective disadvantage.
Social Dilemmas • For example, in some societies individuals benefit by having many children who, they assume, can help wit the family tasks and provide security in the parents’ old age. • But if most families have many children, the result is collective overpopulation.
Social Dilemmas • We therefore have an urgent dilemma: • How can we reconcile individuals’ well being, including their right to pursue their personal interests, with communal well-being?
Social Dilemmas • To isolate and illustrate this dilemma, social psychologists have used laboratory games that attempt to demonstrate real social conflicts.
Social Dilemmas • By showing us how well-meaning people become trapped in mutually destructive behavior, they illuminate some interesting, yet troubling paradoxes of human behavior.
Social Dilemmas • Consider two examples: the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma • Two prisoners are given a choice. If both confess, they get five years. If neither confesses, each gets a year. If one confesses, that prisoner is set free in exchange for evidence used to convict the other of a crime bringing a 10-year sentence.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma • If you were one of the prisoners, unable to communicate with your fellow prisoner, would you confess? • To minimize their own sentences, many would confess, although confession elicits more severe sentences than mutual nonconfession.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma • In some 2,000 studies (Dawes, 1991) university students have faced some variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. • By not cooperating, both parties end up far worse off than if they had trusted each other and thus had gained a joint profit.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma • This dilemma often traps each one in a difficult situation in which both realize they could mutually profit but, unable to communicate and mistrusting one another, become “locked in” to not cooperating. • In such dilemmas, the unchecked pursuit of self-interest can be harmful to all.
Tragedy of the Commons • Many social dilemmas involve more than two parties. For example, global warming stems from the carbon dioxide emitted by the world’s cars. • A metaphor for this social dilemma is what Hardin (1968) called the “tragedy of the commons.”
Tragedy of the Commons • He derived the name from the centrally located pasture areas in old English towns, but the “common” can be air, water, cookies, whales and so on.
Tragedy of the Commons • Imagine 100 farmers surrounding a commons capable of sustaining 100 cows. When each grazes one cow, the common feeding ground is optimally used. • But then someone reasons, “If I put a second cow in the pasture, I’ll double my output, minus the mere 1 percent overgrazing.”
Tragedy of the Commons • So this farmer adds a second cow. So do each of the other farmers. • The result? The Tragedy of the Commons – a grassless mud field. • Many real predicaments parallel this story.
Tragedy of the Commons • The elements of the commons dilemma have been isolated in lab games. • Put yourself in the place of Arizona State University students playing Julian Edney’s Nuts Games (1979). • You and several other students sit around a shallow bowl that initially has 10 metal nuts.
Tragedy of the Commons • The experimenter explains that your goal is to accumulate as many nuts as possible. • Each of you at any time may take as many as you want, and every 10 seconds the number of nuts remaining in the bowl will be doubled. • Would you leave the nuts in the bowl to regenerate, thus producing a greater harvest for all?
Tragedy of the Commons • Likely not. • Unless they were give time to devise and agree upon a conservation strategy, 65 percent of Edney’s groups never reached the first 10-second replenishment. • Often the people knocked the bowl on the floor grabbing for their share.
Tragedy of the Commons • Is such individualism uniquely American? • Kaori Sato (1987) gave students in a more collective culture, Japan, a similar experiment and found the result was like those in Western cultures.
Tragedy of the Commons • The Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons have several similar features. • Both tempt people to explain their own behavior situationally: • “I had to protect myself against exploitation by my opponent.”
Tragedy of the Commons • And both tempt people to explain their partner’s behavior dispositionally: • “She was greedy.”“He was untrustworthy.”
Tragedy of the Commons • Most people never realize that their counterparts are viewing them with the same fundamental error (Gifford & Hine, 1997).
Tragedy of the Commons • Many real-life conflicts, like the Prisoners’ Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons, are non-zero-sum games. • The two sides’ profits and losses need not add up to zero.
Tragedy of the Commons • Both can win; both can lose. • Each game pits the immediate interests of the individuals against the well being of the group.
Tragedy of the Commons • Each is a diabolical social trap that shows how, even when individuals behave “rationally,” harm can result. • No malicious person planned for the earth’s atmosphere to be warmed by a blanket of carbon dioxide.
Resolving social dilemmas How can we induce people to cooperate for their mutual betterment? • Establish rules that regulate self-serving behavior. • Keep social groups small so people feel responsibility for one anther.
Resolving social dilemmas • Enable communication. • Reduce mistrust. • Change payoffs to make cooperation more rewarding. • Invoke altruistic norms.
Misperception • Recall that conflict is a perceived incompatibility of actions or goals. • Many conflicts contain but a small core of truly incompatible goals; the bigger problems are the misperceptions of the other’s motives and goals.
Misperception • In earlier lectures I considered the seeds of such misperception. • The self-serving bias leads individuals and groups to accept credit for their good deeds and shuck responsibility for bad deeds without according others the same benefit of the doubt.
Misperception • A tendency to self-justify further inclines people to deny the wrong of their evil acts that cannot be shucked off.
Misperception • Because of the fundamental attribution error, each side sees the other’s hostility as an evil disposition. • One then filters the information and interprets it to fit one’s preconceptions.
Misperception • Groups often polarize these self-serving, self-justifying, biasing tendencies. • One symptom of groupthink is the tendency to perceive one’s own group as moral and strong, the opposition as evil and weak.
Misperception • Terrorist acts that are despicable brutality to most people are “holy war” to others. • Indeed the mere fact of being in a group triggers an in-group bias. • And negative stereotypes, once formed, are often resistant to contradictory evidence.
Misperception • So it should not be a surprise to us, to discover that people in conflict form distorted images of one another.
Mirror-image perceptions • To a striking degree, misperceptions of those in conflict are mutual. • People in conflict attribute similar virtues to themselves and vices to the other (Tobin & Eagles, 1992).
Mirror-image perceptions • Reciprocal views of one another are often held by parties in ethnic conflicts. • For example, each may view itself as moral and peace loving and the other as evil and aggressive.
Negative mirror-image perceptions • Negative mirror-image perceptions have been an obstacle to peace in many places: • Both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict insisted that “we” are motivated by our need to protect our security and our territory, while “They” want to obliterate us and take our land.
Negative mirror-image perceptions • “We” are the indigenous people here; “they” are the invaders. “We” are the victims, “they” are the aggressors” (Heradstveit, 1979; Rouhana & Bar-Tal, 1998). • Given such intense mistrust, negotiation is difficult.
Negative mirror-image perceptions • At Northern Ireland’s University of Ulster, Hunter and his colleagues (1991) showed Catholic and Protestant students videos of a Protestant attack at a Catholic funeral and a Catholic attack at a Protestant funeral.
Negative mirror-image perceptions • Most students attributed the other side’s attack to “bloodthirsty” motives but its own side’s attack to retaliation or self-defense.
Negative mirror-image perceptions • Muslims and Hindus in Bangladesh exhibit the same in-group-favoring perceptions (Islaem & Hewstone, 1993).