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Some Situational Factors Improving Cognitive Conflict Reduction and Interpersonal Understanding

Henry McCarthy
The Journal of Conflict Resolution
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 1977), pp. 217-234
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/173737
Page Count: 18
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Some Situational Factors Improving Cognitive Conflict Reduction and Interpersonal Understanding
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Abstract

An important program of psychological laboratory research on cognitive conflict is based on Hammond's (1965) lens model. Most representative of this work is the triple-system case in which two persons conflict in their judgments on a mutual task of known structure and properties. Built into this case are two constraints reflecting characteristics of some conflict settings: task outcome feedback and the requirement that the conflicting parties reach a consensus. Minimal conflict reduction is evidenced in these experiments because the demands of outcome feedback orient the subjects to adapt to the changing policy dictated by the task rather than that defined by the other person. To examine the situational limits of these findings, a study was designed for a double-system case comprised of the two policy makers, but in which the structure and properties of the task are undetermined. Hence, no feedback was provided; moreover, joint judgments were made optional. Another deviation from the paradigm involved selecting subjects with already divergent belief systems rather than inducing discrepant policies through different training. Results clearly demonstrated considerable conflict reduction when persons with socially acquired opposing policies, which happened to be linear, were simply allowed free discussion and were not evaluated by task-accuracy feedback. Afterwards, subjects privately made another series of judgments as well as predictions of their partner's judgments. Overall, subjects sustained the substantial level of agreement achieved and revealed an even higher degree of assumed similarity. Limitation of the findings in view of the uniformly linear policies tested is emphasized.

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