News / Africa

Is War Inevitable?

Syria Rebels
Syria Rebels

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua
Throughout human history, war has taken countless lives, cost untold sums of money and brought great cities to ruin. But despite the long list of conflicts from ancient times to modern day, psychologists say war is not inevitable.


Much research has focused on the causes of war and how to deal with its aftermath. But three political psychologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say a better understanding of the psychological roots of war “can increase the likelihood of avoiding violence as a way to resolve conflicts with others.”

Bernhard Leidner, Linda Tropp and Brian Lickel present their views in the peace psychology issue of American Psychologist.

Leidner, lead author, said “Mostly psychology, when it comes to war, focuses obviously on human tendencies to be aggressive, to be violent. So, it’s a lot of focus generally on the more negative end – problematic side – but not as much focus on either the positive side or how to actually prevent those problems in the first place.”

Research shows, he said, that those who tend to “glorify their country” – a kind of nationalism – are more likely to choose a violent solution.

“It’s not everything that you think about your country that has bad impacts. It’s usually only this aspect of glorifying your country. That you perceive other countries as more threatening. That you are more likely to be aggressive to them. On the other hand, if you’re just committed to your country in a more healthy way then you actually do not show these tendencies.”

How do you know if someone is glorifying their country? Leidner says just ask a few questions.

“How much do you think that your country would be superior to other countries? That’s one aspect. Basically thinking that my country is a more moral country -- a better country – more successful country in whatever domain. And also how much do you believe criticism of your own country is allowed? People sometimes believe that criticism of your own country is actually being disloyal to your country. This kind of unconditional loyalty,” he said.

The authors said that conflict and violence allow some people to “address psychological needs for identity, safety, security and power.” They said non-violence has received much less media attention.

“Even if you look at normal human interactions, most of them are non-violent. It’s just that the violent interactions stand out so much that often times we also just get this wrong idea of this is like how we are, although that’s not quite true,” said Leidner.

Leidner added that it’s important for political leaders to explain there may be different paths to crisis resolution – conflict on the one hand, and diplomacy on the other. He says when polls are taken asking people whether they prefer a violent or diplomatic solution – instead of just asking whether they favor an attack or not – there is great support for diplomacy.

“There are examples like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, whose rhetoric was very cooperative. And by that he also step by step changed the view of citizens in his country that it’s better to cooperate and live together in peace.”

Mr. Mandela said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Leidner compares that with rhetoric heard in the U.S. after the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks. He says it became harsher toward Muslim-Americans as time went on.

“Since all these attitudes and behavioral tendencies of people are very malleable, obviously the media and also politicians can actually gear them in a good or bad way, so to speak.”

Leidner and his co-authors said leaders should place more emphasis on increasing empathy and understanding of others. They write, “It is our contention that psychology can and should be applied to promote peace, not war.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid