By Daniel Shapiro
Published in “American Psychologist”. Click here to see the article.
Emotions are a vital dimension in conflicts among nation-states and communities affiliated by common ethnic, economic, or political interests. Yet the individuals most responsible for managing such conflicts, heads of state, CEOs, intellectual or religious leaders, are often blind to the psychological forces affecting their interests. During 20 years of international research, consulting, and teaching, I have developed a program for teaching thought leaders how to apply psychological principles to achieve their aims while also reducing negative outcomes such as violence, social upheaval, and economic displacement. In this article, I present relational identity theory (RIT), a theoretical and intellectual framework I have originated to help people understand and deal with key emotional dimensions of conflict management. I argue that national and communal bonds are essentially tribal in nature, and I describe how a tribe’s unaddressed relational identity concerns make it susceptible to what I term the tribes effect, a rigidification of its relational identity. I provide strategies based on RIT for mitigating the tribes effect and thus enhancing global security.