Upfront

A special issue of American Psychologist turns its attention toward the psychology of peace with a collection of eight articles written by researchers from around the globe. Among the topics covered are the consequences of misinformation, psychology's contributions to war and peace, intergroup contact to prevent conflict and self-love and terrorism. The issue was published in October.

In "Contributions of Positive Psychology to Peace: Toward Global Well-Being and Resilience," J. Christopher Cohrs, PhD, Daniel Christie, PhD, Mathew White, PhD, and Chaitali Das, PhD, analyze the relationship between positive psychology and peace psychology. They discuss aspects of positive emotions, engagement, meaning, personal well-being and resilience and how these factors affect peace on various levels of human interaction ranging from personal to global.

In "Building a Peaceful Society: Origins, Prevention, and Reconciliation after Genocide and Other Group Violence," Ervin Staub, PhD, summarizes factors that can lead to group violence. Staub discusses early prevention and reconciliation as ways to build peace after genocide and other forms of group violence.

In their paper, "Bringing Science to Bear — on Peace, Not War: Elaborating on Psychology's Potential to Promote Peace," Bernhard Leidner, PhD, Linda Tropp, PhD, and Brian Lickel, PhD, argue that war is not inevitable and say it's time for psychologists who study violent conflict to put research into practice to quash the idea that it is, and to promote peace. If social psychology research focuses only on how to soften the consequences of war and violence, rather than how to avoid them, say the authors, "it would fall short of its potential and value for society."

The authors detail how political and social psychology research can head off violent conflict. For example, simply reframing how conflicting groups think of one another can open the door to negotiations, says Leidner. Groups can reframe whether an opposing group's genuine intentions are as negative as they may seem at first glance. Often they're not, and that realization can lead to mutual understanding, reconciliation and nonviolent resolution.

Moreover, talking about the motivations and concerns that underlie conflict can help opposing groups resolve their differences instead of moving toward more violent reactions to conflict, says Tropp. And that's where psychology and psychologists come into play.

"As a field perhaps, we as psychologists have not been as proactive as we could be in trying to enter into public and national discussions about what we have to contribute to the promotion of peace," says Tropp. "I think the time has come for us to really add our voices to those discussions."

— Robin Tricoles