POL 511A - The Psychology of Group Conflict and Cooperation - Spring 2019
Ultimately, all political phenomena, including issues related to international security, boil down to interactions between humans - usually, groups of humans. As such, people's lay theories and beliefs about how humans think and make decisions in groups significantly affect how they approach political issues, including those related to international security. Research on group psychology offers a means of informing, critically evaluating, and improving these lay theories and beliefs. Decades of research have been done in the fields of social and political psychology on how groups of people interact with one another, why interactions between and within groups often become hostile or counter-productive, and how interactions between and within groups can be adjusted in ways that encourage cooperation and peace. In this course, we will seek to understand, broadly: why do groups sometimes conflict and sometimes cooperate with one another? We will start by broadly reviewing what psychologists have discovered regarding inter- and intra-group behavior. Students will then learn about what small-scale laboratory research has told us about when and why conflict versus cooperation might result from group interactions. Next, we will spend considerable time examining how this research has been applied to understanding a range of international security issues, including war and peace, ethnic conflict, terrorism, genocide, international trade, foreign aid, immigration, and refugees. Assignments will require students to critically evaluate their own as well as others' understandings of how group psychology influences contemporary international security issues and come up with concrete, novel ways in which group psychology might inform efforts to handle international security issues now and in the future.