Conflicts are an integral part of social life. Individuals within groups and groups vis-à-vis other groups go through cycles of conflict and animosity, on the one hand, and cooperation and relative harmony, on the other. This repetitive cycle between conflict and cooperation is due to the fact that people are “social animals” who need to cooperate with other group members to ward off external dangers, while at the same time competing with those members – and other groups – over tangible and intangible scarce resources (e.g. food and status). The present paper examines this movement between conflict and cooperation in intergroup relations through a social psychological analysis of processes of intergroup reconciliation.
The paper begins with a brief discussion of the social psychological perspective on intergroup relations and intergroup conflict. It continues with a review of the “real conflict” and “psychological needs” explanations of intergroup conflict and the differences between “conflict settlement,” “conflict resolution” and “reconciliation” as ways to end it. The remainder of the paper addresses the social psychological analysis of intergroup reconciliation. After making a distinction between instrumental and socio-emotional processes of reconciliation, the paper addresses the process of socio-emotional reconciliation in greater detail by describing the needs-based model of reconciliation and related research. The final section of the paper is devoted to the destructive role of collective victimhood in intergroup conflict and ways in which it can be alleviated.