How the Fund Works

Psychological barriers can be broken down into several categories. Success in overcoming these difficult barriers and achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation in the region requires the use of innovative programming specifically targeted to address each unique type of barrier:

Adapting General Worldviews, Ideologies and Personality Characteristics

This category of psychological barriers encompasses a wide variety of issues including political ideology, religious beliefs, implicit theories about humankind, and more. These beliefs do not relate specifically to the conflict, yet they highly influence its dynamic. Programs seeking to address this category of barriers should emphasize how these issues can serve as barriers to peace while focusing on identifying those groups that are most likely to modify their worldviews through education.

Addressing Content Based Barriers

This set of barriers includes long term beliefs related to three critical aspects of the conflict: beliefs about the nature of the conflict, the nature of the adversary and the nature of the self. These barriers exist in all conflicts and include such issues as viewing the conflict in zero-sum terms—a gain for one side as an automatic loss for the other, denial of the other group’s identity, monolithic views of the adversary, moral glorification of the self, sense of being a victim, and more. These barriers radically impede the process of conflict resolution and reconciliation, rendering exposure to the divergent narratives of the other side critical to overcoming these deep-seated barriers.

Understanding Cognitive and Motivational Processes

These barriers play a critical role in how people process and judge new information and therefore play a particularly important role in conflict situations. Certain cognitive processes impede a fully rational decision making process, therefore amplifying the impact of existing psychological barriers. The negative effect of these cognitive processes on conflict resolution is clear; in order to overcome them, education is vital; as studies have shown that simple awareness of the presence of these cognitive processes in our decision making processes can drastically minimize their effect.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

This final category of barriers is perhaps the most obvious, yet it is also the most difficult to overcome. Over the course of violent, intractable conflict strong negative emotions towards the other side inevitably arise—deep-seated feelings of fear and hatred are endemic in conflict situations and cause any overtures towards peace by the other side to be evaluated with extreme negativity and distrust by the other. These strong emotions develop as an inherent result of how an individual or society construes specific events. Cross cultural interaction and dialogue is thus critical towards overcoming these negative emotions triggered by divergent construal of events and contradictory conflict narratives, exposing the humanity of the other side and encouraging productive, mutual engagement.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. “

Martin Luther King, Jr.