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Prenegotiation Development of Optimism in Intractable Conflict

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Except when there is substantial third-party pressure for settlement, participants in intractable conflict will only enter negotiation if they are motivated to end the conflict and optimistic about negotiation’s chances of success. The sources of such optimism are explored using case material from three intractable interethnic conflicts that were ultimately resolved by negotiation. In all three cases, optimism developed during prenegotiation communication between the parties. Also there were two main channels of communication, each channel providing credibility to the other and serving as a back-up if the other failed. In two of the cases the communication was face-to-face and friendly, but in the third it was distant and mediated by a chain of two intermediaries. A possible reason for this difference is that the parties were positively interdependent in the first two cases but not in the third. The paper concludes with a summary of three psychological experiments that demonstrate the impact of positive vs. negative interdependence.

Affiliations: 1: School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University9006 Friars Road, Bethesda, md


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