Linda Tropp, PhD, who directs the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, requires students in her doctoral program to intern at peace-building organizations around the world where they can see "how and why their research might be useful," she says.
Since the program launched in 2004, a dozen students have gained field experience and conducted research in Burundi, Lebanon, Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and other countries. A number of Tropp's students are currently investigating how people's perceptions, attitudes, emotions and motivations influence — and are influenced by — their experiences in the context of conflict.
The Psychology of Peace and Violence Program is one of the few programs in the country dedicated to training peace psychologists. Yet psychologists can play a critical role in peace building, Tropp says. Politicians can broker accords and political scientists can discuss political and legal ramifications of state-level agreements, but psychologists focus on the role that people's needs and motivations play in conflict and the potential for peace.