Psychological Approaches to the Study of Conflict

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The following essay is going to critically discuss the applicability of the psychological approaches to the study of conflict. Psychological approaches are one of the theories of social conflict. There are various approaches or theories under the psychological approaches. These theories are based on the idea that; conflict and aggression are inborn of human behavior. Some of there approaches are not mainly based on the psychological approaches, but rather they focus on the biological explanations of human behavior.

Conflict because of Humankind’s Aggressiveness

By understanding the evolutionary and the genetic aspects of behavior, then human’s life can be understood. The idea that explanations depend on social experience are only necessary to the point where evidence shows humans are not already having difficulties with aggressiveness at birth. In Houdini’s term, aggression already be in humans at birth, which state that aggression is an inborn. All the theories that depends on the influence social environment to explain how humans are aggressive, starts with the condition that humans are blank slates (Ranger, 2010).

Frustration usually occurs when people feel that they are not getting to achieve their goals that they have set for themselves. People get frustrated when their computer crashes while they are writing an important document, when they feel that their social relationships are not going well, or when their schoolwork is going poorly. “However, Jane Goodall’s (1986) intensive and well-known study of primates, humankind’s closest biological relatives, observed a variety of acts of aggression, including rape, conflict amongst males over copulation rights, and raids by one band of chimps on another band over territory. An alternative to the blank slate approach is to consider aggression as an inborn, evolutionary significant strategy, which humans carry forward” (Ranger, 2010).

Humans are born with the neurobiological structures and biochemical processes that produce the fight part of the flight response (Gray, 1991, 1994). The history of five thousand years ago leaves no doubt that such normative action did play a part in decreasing humankind’s potential for aggression. Hostility and violence have been a problem that much of civilizing effort is homo sapiens successful attempt to control the liking to attack our own kind (Salter, 1998).

There are three types of aggression, the first one is the Accidental Aggression is not like other forms of aggression, it is some sort of a mistake due to carelessness. The Accidental Aggression mostly is mostly seen in children playing in adults too. For example, if someone is running to catch a bus, that person happens to accidently hurt someone. The second one; Expressive Aggression, is an act that you are aware with, but with no purpose of causing any harm, here you express your feelings. The third one; Hostile Aggression; this form of aggression that has intentions on harm psychological, rather physical harm[endnoteRef:1]. [1:

The Frustration-Aggression Theory

Frustration is an emotion that is evoked, when someone is preventing you from achieving your goal, this can cause you from being frustrated to being aggressive. Aggression is the behavior that is intended to harm others. Aggression is both learned and an inborn. For example, when you have failed a test, then you become frustrated, but if someone provokes you like saying, “you are such a loser, why didn’t you pass that easy test” that’s when you become angry and aggression takes place you can even kill the person, because mow your stored frustration is driven to aggression (Radwan, 2017).

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How is Aggression an inborn?

Aggression is the sign of the healthy course development, and it is an inborn. Aggression behavior is mostly shown at the very young stage and we continue to learn if how is to handle conflict more effectively. People can channel their aggression, rather than to react with aggression. For example, a child lashes at his/her parents in a store (Bennett, 2019).

How is Aggression learned?

Aggression is learned and is a behavior that is meant to harm other individuals. Aggression behavior happens many forms, for example verbal, psychological or physical. Research in the past, has focused mainly on physical forms of aggression, such as instances of hitting, pushing, kicking or throwing objects, all this with the intentions of harming another person. More recently, research has been on the focus of non-physical forms of aggression that also have intentions of harming another person. For example, verbal aggression entails outbursts or language used in social settings hurts an individual’s self-concept or cause psychological pain (Seel, 2012).

Humans Needs Theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a motivational theory in psychology, having a five-tier model of human need. Needs that are on the lower down of the pyramid in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. In the pyramid, from the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are; physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization (McLeod, 2018).

Conflict because of misperception and miscalculation

Conflict as misperception

Conflict as a misperception, is the way we see others through a lens distorted by our wishes, needs and experience. Such misperception surely can be a base of conflict, for our actions follow our perceptions, and if we perceive others as evil and act accordingly, we will generate responses in kind. White (1966) have investigated, and had argued that wars, especially the conflict in Vietnam, are a result of misperception (Rummel, 1977). The importance of misperception as a cause of international conflict, especially war, is commonly accepted. Whether as primary determinant, misperception has been linked with most 20th century wars, including both world and the cold war (Stein, 1982).

Conflict as miscalculation

Conflict as a miscalculation, in Pakistan is one of the examples, the conflict was to internationalize the conflict and remind the World of the outstanding UN resolutions that India has failed to adhere to in order to resolve the conflict in this region (Iqbal, 2018).


In conclusion, psychological approaches to the study of conflict are many. There are Aggression and Frustration theories, which states that humans become frustrated before they become aggressive. Also, aggression can be an inborn or can be learned depending on different personalities. Another cause of social conflict in psychological approaches is through human needs theory, where individuals require certain needs and as a miscalculation or misperception.


  1. Bennett, T., 2019. Aggression is inborn, but worsened or improved by one's environment(Updated). Counselling News, 19 March.
  2. Iqbal, S., 2018. Miscalculation: Risks of Inadvertent Nuclear War. s.l.:s.n.
  3. McLeod, S., 2018. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. SimplyPsychology.
  4. Radwan, M. F., 2017. Frustration-Aggression Theory, s.l.: s.n.
  5. Ranger, T. A. A. a. A. S. ed., 2010. Arguments, Aggression, and Confict. New York: Routledge.
  6. Rummel, R., 1977. Misperception, Cognitive Dissonance, Righteousness, and Conflict. Understanding Conflict and war: Conflict in perspective, Volume 3.
  7. Salter, I. E. a. F. K. ed., 1998. Ethnic Conflict and Indocrationation. New York: Berghahn Books.
  8. Seel, N. M., 2012. Learned Aggression in Humans. Encyclopedia of the Science of Learning, p. 103.
  9. Stein, A., 1982. When perception matters.
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