Sources of Human Behaviour
by Katharina Friedmann, student of Comprehensive School Kandel, Germany, March 2003
Why do different groups fight each other, although they all are just
Competition for a limited
resource, whether it is money, land, prestige, or any other desirable
commodity, is a major factor in many disputes. Competition is the basis
for the conflict spiral view of war. In this view, each
side feels threatened by the actions of the other side. Each side
believes its goals are incompatible with the other’s, and so each fears
the other. Every success by one side draws renewed efforts from the other
side to excel. This leads to a “spiral” in competition, and ultimately
armed conflict results.
But competition is not always
the main factor in war. According to the deterrence view of war,
one side may be happy with the “status quo” and the other side becomes
the “aggressor”. If the
aggressor power doubts the will or the ability of the status quo power to
resist the aggressor’s actions, it may make expansionary demands. These
demands grow until the status quo power finally resists and war results.
World war II resulted when the status quo powers (the allies) finally
resisted Hitler’s expansion after allowing him some earlier gains. In
the deterrence view, war can only be prevented if the status quo power has
the capacity and will to fight.
Conflict spiral view
view of international conflicts which sees them escalating into war as the
result of competition and fear.
Deterrence view :
of international conflict which sees one side as a “status quo”
power whose role is to deter “aggressor” powers. If the status
quo power is unwilling or unable to deter the aggressor, the aggressor
expands until the status quo
power is forced into war.
Sherif and “robber’s
Muzafer Sherif was born in
Smyrna, Turkey, 1906. During the First World War, when he was about 13,
Greek soldiers invaded his village. After coming to the United states and
taking his doctorate in psychology at Harvard, Sherif devoted his life to
the study or conflict resolution.
the late 1950’s, Sherif and his coleagues helped run a summer camp for
eleven and twelve year old boys Robber’s Cave Park , Oklahoma. The boys
were carefully selected to be happy , healthy individuals who had no
difficulty getting along with others their age. None of the boys knew each
other in advance of the experiment. A couple of boys living in one housing
unit, were called the “Eagles”; the rest of the boys living in another
housing unit, were called the “Rattlers”. Sherif gave both the Eagles
and the Rattlers problems that could only be solved in their groups. The
boys of each unit came to like each other more and more. After the Eagles
and the Rattlers had shown considerable cohesion , Sherif introduced a
series of contests designed to make the to groups hostile toward one
another. As the groups competed for prizes, conflict developed, since one
group could only win at the expense of the other. Very soon, the Eagles
were making nasty comments about the Rattlers. Most of this hostility
consisted of one group’s attributing selfish or hostile motives to the
other group. Name-calling, fights, and raids on the cabins belonging to
the other group became commonplace. Sherif had created an experimental
context for his study of conflict resolution.
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