Overcoming Psychological Barriers to Peaceful Conflict Resolution

One of the most important psychological barriers to conflict resolution is the rigid structure of the sociopsychological repertoire that evolves in societies immersed in intractable conflict. This article examines ways to overcome the rigidity of this repertoire in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Specifically, in line with the prospect theory, the authors assumed that elicitation of beliefs about losses stemming from the continuing conflict may bring about a process of unfreezing. To test this assumption, an exploratory study with a national sample of the Israeli-Jewish population and two subsequent experimental studies were conducted. The results demonstrated that exposure to information about losses inherent in continuing the conflict induces higher willingness to acquire new information about possible solutions to the conflict, higher willingness to reevaluate current positions about it, and more support for compromises than the exposure to neutral information or to information about possible gains derived from the peace agreement.