News / Africa

Is War Inevitable?

Syria Rebels
Syria Rebels

Multimedia

Audio
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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid