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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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Psychological Barriers to Resolving Intergroup Conflict: An Extensive Review and Consolidation of the Literature

Keywords: Inter-group Conflict, Psychological Barriers, Conflict Resolution, Dispute Resolution

Abstract: This paper reviews almost 40 years of research on psychological barriers to intergroup conflict resolution and finds that scholars have identified 72 nominally different barriers that create or exacerbate intergroup conflict. In order to create a tractable list that would be more helpful to future scholars and practitioners, we consolidate this vast literature (e.g., by eliminating substantive and conceptual redundancies) to produce a list of 26 “unique” psychological barriers. We further organize this inventory of barriers with a framework that distinguishes between “cognitive”, “affective”, and “motivated” psychological barriers. We then shift our attention to the work of scholars who have attempted, experimentally, to attenuate psychological barriers in negotiation and conflict settings, and identify five primary methods for doing so. Finally, we discuss the implications of our review for future work in this field.

William Friend, Brown University

Deepak Malhotra, Harvard Business School


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