Introduction has seen conflict throughout the ages, and

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Last updated: September 14, 2019

Introduction?            It has been said by a number of authors that the history of social psychology is intimately associated with conflict (James, 1910; Richards, 2002; Rose, 1999). Humankind has seen conflict throughout the ages, and intense war between such as World Wars and civil wars, have left a large impact in history. In order to understand the motivation between people’s social or political behaviour, psychologists must tap into the fields of social and political psychology (Radokovic, 2010). The prevention of antagonism between countries gave rise to the art of diplomacy; the practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states, often to achieve a common goal that benefits both parties (FDFA; Lee et al., 2011). According to Gärling et al. (2000), psychology has the potential to contribute to international diplomacy, and therefore indirectly to the prevention of conflicts between and within the states that may escalate to wars. Furthermore, Tetlock and Goldgeier (2001) argue that any approach that fails to consider psychological factors is incomprehensible.

In this view, psychological research in diplomacy concentrates on the role of cognitive factors, individual and cultural characteristics, and motivational factors affecting judgements, actual negotiation behaviours, and outcomes of negotiations (Neale & Bazerman, 1991).This paper focuses on the processes of Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis and the role of communication in cooperation. The link between the processes is discussed, and a proposed theoretical framework will be offered using theories supported by empirical evidence. The main focus, is the discussion of factors that influence negotiations between groups; how these may be applied in the field of diplomacy and what can be done in its development. Contact Hypothesis “Contact research has contributed greatly to the fact that psychology is now in its best position to make a contribution to the advancement of world peace by actively promoting intergroup tolerance” (Hewstone et al., 2006, p.100). At the core of negotiation lies the belief of changing attitudes and relations between conflicting groups through contact and communication (Maoz, 2003).

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Evidence suggests that during times of conflict, negative stereotypes and prejudice are formed and reinforced, making reconciliation difficult (Black-Gutman & Hickson, 1996; Maoz, 2000; Teichman, 2016). Stereotypes are fixed, over-generalized beliefs about members of one group, held by members of another group (Cardwell, 1996), while prejudice are prior negative judgements towards outgroup members, in other words, negative evaluations of the group (Allport, 1954; Jones, 1972). As such, psychological theories in the field of diplomacy and negotiation, have placed importance on changing negative attitudes between groups (Maoz, 2003; Rouhana & Bar-Tel, 1998), essentially focusing on altering stereotype and prejudice.Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis has often been involved in research on diminishing the effects of negative stereotypes and prejudice– for facilitating negotiation. The theory proposes that positive interaction between members of different groups improves intergroup relations. Contact is said to have an effect on changing explicit as well as implicit attitudes on the out-group and elevate trust and forgiveness – fundamentally reducing prejudice (Binder et al.

, 2009).  A meta-analysis by Pettigrew and Tropp (2000) gathered evidence from 203 studies, involving 90, 000 participants from 24 countries. They found that 94% of the studies reported prejudice reduced as intergroup contact increased. Six years later, Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) gathered evidence from another 515 studies between 1940 and 2000, involving more participants from a larger ethnic range than the previous sample; 250, 089 participants from 38 countries.

The second analysis confirmed the last: more contact reduces prejudice. With this level of support, one can assume that friendly contact is enough to diminish negative attitudes between conflicting groups and facilitate diplomacy and negotiations of peace. However, research has shown that this is only true only under certain conditions; contact is effective in reducing prejudice between members of different groups if it takes place on an equal status footing, if groups share a common goal, if there is cooperative interaction, if there is a potential for developing a friendship, and if it is sanctioned by institutional support (Amir, 1969; Brown & Hewstone, 2005; Pettigrew; 1998). Pettigrew and Tropp’s more recent studies found that more contact did reduce prejudice under more optimal conditions, that is, constructed contact situations designed to meet the optimal conditions achieved higher mean effect sizes than other samples (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006; 2008).

More recent research, has shed light on possible implications for diplomacy. To reach a general agreement between groups, an established diplomate may need to consider an out-groups’ race, belief system, and history (Neumann, 2005). According to Dixon et al.

(2010), research has concentrated mainly on the attitudes of historically advantaged groups (the majority), and so the reduction of discrimination and inequality between the groups has been seen as “successful”. Although positive interaction between members of different groups improve inter-group relations, meta-analytic data from numerous studies have shown that prejudice-reducing effects of contact are generally weaker for members of the disadvantaged groups (the minority) (Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005). This is said to be caused by pessimistic views of racial equality from the minority (Dixon et al.

, 2010; Tropp, 2007). In countries with ethnic minority groups, research focused on reducing tension between the minorities and the majorities has produced inconsistent findings. In South Africa, efforts to reduce tension between the Whites (the majority) and the Blacks (the minority) have been studied by Dixon, Durrheim and Tredoux (2007).  Whites who reported having positive contact with Blacks tended to be more supportive of government efforts to achieve change, whereas Blacks who reported having positive contact with Whites tended to be less supportive of such efforts. A follow-up study revealed that positive contact was associated with tolerant racial attitudes for both groups, at the same time, it identified a similar disjunction for Blacks’ and Whites’ perceptions of racial justice and discrimination.

That is, positive contact may increase minority group members’ trust in majorly group members while decreasing their perceptions of inequality and support for the implementation of social change. Further evidence to support this has been found; Muslim groups in India, having Hindu friends improved Muslims’ attitudes toward Hindus but also diminished their awareness of group inequalities, and so, decreased intentions to improve relationships between Muslims in India and Hindus (Tausch, Saguy & Singh, 2009). Despite having positive relationships between the minority and the majority, the question of whether a group chooses to maintain them is open to debate. Historically disadvantaged groups have bene shown to be pessimistic in their views of racial inequality and so tend to be distrustful in their relations with the advantaged. This could be due to lack of communication between the groups (Deutsch, 1958), as there is no opportunity for both groups to address the issue at hand. Communication effect on group cooperationAccording to Gärling et al. (2010), unresolved conflicts between self-interest and mutual interests may stall negotiations.

In a broad definition, negotiation is intended for two groups with differences, to reach a beneficial outcome by exploring options and exchanging offers (Fells, 2009; Fisher & Ury, 1984), in other words, cooperate in order to meet a high payoff for both parties. Cases in which negotiations may produce unbeneficial outcomes for those involved, often are because of non-cooperation between the groups (needs reference). Social psychologists draw upon the study of social dilemmas to effectively comprehend the underlying processes of negotiation. The questions that drive psychologists surround the motivation as to why groups may or may not intend to cooperate. The social dilemma is a situation in which an individual may choose to defect from cooperating and receive a higher payoff (Bouas & Komorita, 1996), however the drawback of this is that should the whole group choose to defect, the payoff is low for everyone (Beggan & Midgley, 1996; Liebrand & Messick, 1996). Ironically, such defection may bring about more conflict (Bornstein, 1994;Kieslich & Hilbig, 2014), making cooperation and an overall consensus difficult to achieve. Here, the contact hypothesis can again be applied; face-to-face discussion has been shown to increase cooperative behaviour and prevent defection (Bouas & Komorita, 1996; Deutsch, 1958).

This allows for focus on identification of groups and most importantly, acknowledgement of each-others’ commitment to cooperate. Research in dilemmas have shown several factors that influence how conflict can be resolved; discussion among groups (Daves & Messick, 2000) show that creating a group identity among individuals can increase cooperation, however, Bouas and Komorita’s (1996) study show that simply creating a group identity to insufficient to elicit cooperation. Their most plausible explanation of group discussion effects is members’ perceived consensus to cooperate, that is, the degree of agreement among group members. The paradox here is that group identity allows for members to perceive having a shared goal of cooperation, whereas consensus to cooperate allows for members to have the expectation that other members will cooperate. When seen in this way, it is easy enough to assume that negotiations are a double-edged sword. How then, can diplomatic institutes elicit successful cooperation and therefore effective negotiation? According to theories of communication in group cooperation, communication seems to be the key player (Bouas & Komorita, 1996; Deutsch, 1958).

A theoretical framework is proposed (see Table 1.) to highlight the possible necessities of effective cooperation. The model considers theories with empirical evidence; communication as a key player of cooperation (Bouas & Komorita, 1996; Deutsch, 1958), and the role of discussion in consensus as a way to provide an opportunity for individuals to recognize the advantage of a joint-strategy (Orbell et al., 1988). The model also takes into account the role of contact hypothesis in communicative cooperation: as face-to-face contact/communication takes place, group members learn and have recognized the benefits of cooperation. As such, the conditions for effective contact (Allport, 1954) and therefore effective cooperation can take place, because groups now share equal status footing (collective, joint-strategy), have cooperative interaction, and have a common goal. Thus, better communication may elicit more acknowledgements in consensus and finally, lead to effective negotiation.    Discussion and Conclusion The relationship between communication and diplomacy is for now, rather ambiguous.

Although there is significant research to suggest many processes that influence how conflicts may be resolved, the many inconsistencies and the paradoxes within the theories imply that there is still a great deal to learn. A major theme that arises from the previous discussions, is the importance of inter-group communication. For communication to be effective in cooperation, it seems to draw upon Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis, and yet when consensus between groups is optimal, it may elicit better communication, as proposed by the theoretical model made for this paper.

It should be noted that the model is not insinuating nor accusing any previous research, but has simply been drawn to represent the possible relationships between the processes and the theories between them.Considering the theories derived from the multiple research involved in the processes, evidence that these processes can be applied to large-scale diplomatic situations is very minimal. Most of the research presented here focused on forced manipulations in laboratory settings, and small-scale conflicts in a small part of the world. In a future setting, it would be beneficial to see such processes being tested and applied to large-scale conflicts, and if it can be, how they benefit in the long-term study of diplomacy and peace negotiations. This, in itself, can bring about complications – because of the very nature of conflict, tensions between conflicting countries and ethnic groups may not allow for psychological study, and may not agree to an armistice.

In today’s perspective, war seem inevitable, however, psychology has the potential to contribute to international diplomacy, and therefore indirectly to the prevention of conflicts between and within the states that may escalate to wars. 

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