Why to research about mediation in the lab: bridging the gap
For years, Jeremy and I have been working on bridging neurosciences and conflict resolution. We have developed what we believe is a solid theoretical and interdisciplinary framework that can help conflict resolution professionals build better processes that take into account the way the emotional, social and cognitive brains work. Nonetheless, while we were researching on what science could say on the topic of conflict, we started to realize that there was very little well-controlled research on the topic.
Although conflict inflicts high costs for society and individuals, rigorous studies of conflict resolution processes are so far rare and evidence-based recommendations for conflict resolution are lacking. Mediation, in particular, has become a widely used tool in conflict resolution over the past 20 years. Nonetheless, to date there are only preliminary studies on the effects of mediation. These studies either lack a proper control group 1 or are theoretical discussions 2. Emotions most likely play a pivotal role in mediation. It has thus been shown that discussing emotions at the mediation table can have a positive impact on parties’ emotions, perception of the other and mediation outcomes 3. Moreover, it has been observed that the explicitness and the degree of force with which a sender expresses opposition during a conflictual conversation 4 can escalate or de-escalate a conflict. In spite of these advances, a recent review 5 has emphasized that emotions have been understudied in the conflict literature.
One way of assessing emotions is through “affective and social computing” (the recording and processing of affective and social signals). For instance, facial expression and voice processing have been used to predict reactions in dyadic negotiations 6 and Electro Dermal Activity (EDA) synchronization has been tested as an indicator of the qualities of interpersonal interaction 7. Additional research shows that two physiological coupling measures can be used to predict collaborative processes, such as emotion management and convergence 8 and that high frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV) is positively associated with cooperation in a game 9. With regard to the influence of culture, studies in the domain of negotiation suggest that Asian negotiators are more likely to accept an offer from an opposing party who displays positive as opposed to negative emotions 10.
Although these studies in the domain of negotiation offer valuable insights about the role of affective and social signals in interactions, these parameters have not been studied in the context of conflict. More specifically, research on the effect of mediators has so far been carried out without a proper control group. In addition, although affective and social signals such as facial expressions, EDA and HF HRV have been studied in collaborative games or negotiation role-plays 6, it is not clear whether these findings can be transferred to conflict resolution or mediation. Last but not least, the influence of culture on the emotional state of parties during mediation has not been researched. In fact, the conflict resolution literature here focuses primarily on multicultural teams 12.
- P. Kaiser et al.,2014. ↩
- T. S. Jones et al., 2001. ↩
- J. K. Jameson et al., 2009. ↩
- L. Weingart et al., 2014. ↩
- N. Nair, 2008. ↩
- S. Park et al., 2013. ↩
- P. Slov, 2014. ↩
- G. Chanel et al., 2013. ↩
- B. Beffara et al., 2015. ↩
- S. Kopelman et al., 2008. ↩
- S. Park et al., 2013. ↩
- M. A. Von Glinow et al., 2004. ↩