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Conflict Resolution


From 'Primates—A Natural Heritage of ConflictResolution' by Frans B. M. de Waal

Behavioral signs of anxiety have indeed been measured in aggressors, especially after conflict in high-quality relationships.These findings fit the prediction that aggression-induced anxiety concerns the social tie and suggest an interesting emotional mechanism: Conflict in valuable relation-ships induces greater anxiety, which in turn creates a greater need for calming PC con-tact with the opponent.

As a testimony to the effectiveness of these mechanisms, aggression can become quite common in close relationships without endangering them. Thus, not only do macaque mothers, daughters, and sisters show high levels of grooming and mutual support,they also frequently fight; in fact, they do so more often than unrelated females. This paradoxical finding can be explained by assuming that the more compatible or secure a relationship (38), the more the threshold for conflict can be lowered without posing a threat to that relationship. The same may apply to entire species, such as some conciliatory and tolerant macaques, which also exhibit high rates of mild aggression.These high rates may reflect the reduced cost associated with aggression in a society in which reconciliation is easy.

The only way to obtain popcorn would be for two monkeys to sit side by side at a dispenser, a procedure that attached significant benefits to their relationship. After this training, subjects showed a three times greater tendency to reconcile after an induced fight than subjects that had not been trained to cooperate.

Other options are avoidance of the adversary (common in hierarchical and territorial species) and the sharing of resources(common in tolerant species)

After having weighed the costs and benefits of each option,conflict may escalate to the point of aggression, after which there still is the option of undoing its damage by means of reconciliation, which option will be favored by parties with shared interests.

Cognitive prerequisites for reconciliation are minimal. It is essential that members of the species recognize each other individually and that participants in a fight remember their opponent’s identity. In addition, as seen above, reconciliation probably involves evaluation of the benefits derived from relation-ships: Appreciation of relationship value will prevent risky overtures (any rapprochement carries the possibility of renewed conflict) for little gain.

individuals sometimes adopt a control role,breaking up fights or systematically protecting the weak against the strong. At other times they intervene peacefully or try to calm down one of the participants. In species in which large males defend units of several females, such as Chinese golden monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellanae), the leading male may maintain harmony by interposing himself between female contestants while holding their hands, and stroking or grooming both of them.Triadic reconciliation.In macaques and vervets (Cercopithecus aethiops), relatives of the victim may seek contact with the opponent. For example, a mother may approach and groom the attacker of her daughter in what appears a reconciliation “on behalf ” of her offspring. Such third-party contacts seem to serve the relations between entire matrilines. Similarly, there exist field reports of intergroup reconciliations spear-headed by the alpha females of different monkey groups.Third-party mediation.In perhaps the most complex pattern, thus far known of chimpanzees only, a female acts as catalystby bringing male rivals together. After a fight between them, males may remain oriented toward each other, staying close, but without either one initiating an actual reunion. Fe-males have been observed to break the dead-lock by grooming one male, then the other,until she has brought the two of them together, after which she withdraws.

According to the relational model, aggressive behavior is one of several ways in which conflicts of interest can be settled. Other possible ways are tolerance (e.g., sharing of resources), or avoidance of confrontation (e.g.,by subordinates to dominants). If aggression does occur, it depends on the nature of the social relationship whether repair attempts will be made, or not. If there is a strong mutual interest in maintenance of the relationship, reconciliation is most likely. Parties negotiate the terms of their relationship by going through cycles of conflict and reconciliation.

Traditionally, cost-benefit analyses have started from the assumption that animals neither know nor need each other. Thus, the rarity of lethal aggression was attributed entirely to the physical deterrent posed by the opponent’s fighting abilities. In many social animals, however, both parties stand to lose if escalated fighting damages relationships.

Among preschoolers, two forms of conflict resolution have been noticed: peaceful associative outcomes,in which both opponents stay together and work things out on the spot, and friendly reunions between former opponents after temporary distancing. These two complementary forms of child reconciliation, ex-pressed in play invitations, body contacts,verbal apologies, object offers, self-ridicule,and the like, have been found to reduce aggression, decrease stress-related agitation(such as jumping up and down), and increase tolerance.

One of the single best predictors of peacemaking is positive contact between children before eruption of the conflict, suggesting a concern with the continuity and integrity of interactions with peers.

how friendship increases conciliatory tendency and how peacemaking skills are acquired through interaction with peers and siblings. An impoverished social environment (as in the homeless) deprives children of this essential aspect of socialization (68),causing deficits in conflict management and moral development.

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