Mediation in Intergroup Conflict: The Role of Empathy Between Conflict Parties

Conflict mediation is a structured intervention by an impartial mediator, which aims at the conflict resolution by facilitating communication between two or more conflict parties (e.g., Kressel, 2006; Moore, 2003). Impartiality of the mediator means that she or he is not involved and does not take s...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Gutenbrunner, Lisa
Contributors: Wagner, Ulrich (Prof. Dr.) (Thesis advisor)
Format: Dissertation
Language:English
Published: Philipps-Universität Marburg 2017
Psychologie
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Summary:Conflict mediation is a structured intervention by an impartial mediator, which aims at the conflict resolution by facilitating communication between two or more conflict parties (e.g., Kressel, 2006; Moore, 2003). Impartiality of the mediator means that she or he is not involved and does not take sides in the conflict. The general aim of mediation usually encompasses a mutually satisfactory solution of the conflict, an improvement (or satisfactory termination) of the relation of conflict parties, and an empowering and satisfactory mediation process (e.g., Bush & Folger, 2004; Herrman, 2006; Wall & Dunne, 2012). Mediation is applied in various fields of intergroup conflict. The fields of labor conflict, environmental conflict, or international conflict are among the most prominent ones (e.g., Bercovitch & Fretter, 2007; Bingham et al., 2002; DeRouen et al., 2011; Hiltrop, 1989; LaPlant Turkiewicz & Allen, 2014). With three experiments in three different contexts, we confirmed the hypothesis that mediation increases positive attitudes between groups in conflict. While most of the prior research on mediation effectiveness lacked either internal or external validity, we evaluated mediation with strong concerns for both. Applying experimental designs under controlled conditions supported the internal validity of our results. Having professional mediators conduct semi-structured mediations in real conflicts supported the external validity of our results (cf. Shadish et al., 2002). By applying other success measures than the common agreement rate, we furthermore increased the construct validity (cf. McGillis, 1997). While in our studies the agreement rate did not differentiate between experimental and control condition, we could detect differences in intergroup relations. Finally, by conducting structural equation modeling, we increased the reliability of our results (cf. Brown, 2006). With the three studies, we used an experimental causal chain design (cf. Spencer et al., 2005), which applies the most rigorous test for causality – the experimental design (cf. Shadish et al., 2002) – in the test of statistical mediation hypotheses. Therewith, we provided strong evidence for the psychological process we assumed: Mediation increases mutual empathy between conflict parties and therewith supports more positive intergroup attitudes and liking. With our third study, we furthermore suggested that not only empathy for the other, but also feeling heard by her or him supports conflict resolution. This finding added to the severely understudied field of perspective giving (cf. Goldstein et al., 2014). Generally, our results shed valuable first light on the psychological processes of effective mediation in intergroup conflict (cf., Pruitt, 2011; Wall et al., 2001). Our research points toward several directions how to further investigate mediation in intergroup conflict: We discussed various possibilities to evaluate mediation with internally valid designs without losing concern for the external validity of results. Moreover, we strongly recommend extending our research by for instance investigating the effects of specific mediation styles or comparing the psychological processes and needs for minority and majority groups in mediation. Considering the divide of researchers investigating mediation in the field and in the laboratory, as well as the divide of mediation research and practice, we hope for a more cooperative and dialogical, shortly, a more mediation-like, approach to mediation in the future. Experience has shows that both sides can learn from each other and that cooperation is a profitable endeavor for all involved.
Physical Description:105 Pages
DOI:https://doi.org/10.17192/z2017.0114