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We know that our thinking is affected by conflict; this applies to groups and nations as much as to individuals. Mediators are at the sharp end of this phenomenon, and those we work with often find each other’s behaviour at best inexplicable and at worst malicious. This article considers how biases and heuristics (mental shortcuts) can exacerbate disputes. Two cognitive biases in particular can contribute to the growth of conflict: the fundamental attribution error and the self-serving bias. Using a workplace mediation case study the article traces the step-by-step mechanics of conflict in people’s thinking and its tendency to set in motion vicious circles of suspicion and defence. It goes on to provide a critique of bullying and harassment policies before proposing that they begin with a mediation stage in order to combat attribution errors by bringing more data into play.
|Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis
|Published - Dec 2013
- conflict resolution
- cognitive biases