Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen P. Cohen

Committee Members

Stephen P. Cohen

Mary Brown Parlee

Charles Kadushin

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


conflict resolution


This study investigated how people affiliated with different parties in an international conflict understand their own actions and the actions of their adversaries. Using data gathered in the Middle East in 1982, the study examined the explanations offered by 1336 Israeli Jews, Palestinians (living in Israel) and Egyptians to three political events in the Middle East: 'Israeli Air Force conducts a raid on Beirut,' 'Palestinians attack a bus on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway,' and 'A peace treaty is announced between Israel and Egypt.'

The study, an exploratory analysis, was carried out in a sequence of stages. First, the analysis involved a comparison of the substantive interpretations of the 'same' events by people from three Middle Eastern societies. Second, a typology of responses to the three political events was developed which identified different cognitive orientations toward the conflict environment. Third, distinctive patterns of response across the three political events were identified using latent class analysis (Lazarsfeld, 1954, 1959; Goodman, 1974).

It was expected that parties to a conflict would explain the 'same' events differently. The extent of these differences, however, varied not only by nationality, but with each type of event. War events were seen as more familiar and predictable in their causes and consequences than peace events. Thus, the study revealed parallel ways of thinking about war events across societies. In contrast, a peace action generated differences in interpretation among all three of the national groups. At the cognitive level the peace action appeared to unsettle the stereotypic expectations that each party has of the others, implying that rather than trying to change perceptions by addressing them directly via cognitive techniques, more types of events are needed which can shake up the closed perceptual system created by ongoing hostile events.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.