Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I recently joined a psychological study, now in its third year, called the Good Judgment Project. The project asks groups of people of diverse backgrounds to make predictions about the the occurrence of various events, mostly in the realm of foreign affairs. This study has already had remarkable success in forecasting the likelihood of various world political and economic events, in contrast to the often dismal record of even highly renowned individual experts and pundits. Similarly, various trading exchanges that allow the public to purchase (with real or imaginary money) interests in various possible outcomes, have also had notable success in accurately predicting election results and such. These kinds of experiments demonstrate something about the wisdom of crowds. But the Good […]

Reading through some of the twitter comments that started popping up immediately after last night’s unusual World Series game, it wasn’t difficult to figure out which were written by Red Sox fans, and which by Cardinals fans. (For those who missed it, the Cardinals won in the bottom of the ninth when runner Allen Craig was called safe at home, even though he was clearly tagged out, because Craig had tripped over the legs of the Red Sox third baseman after rounding third base.) Obstruction is an obscure and complicated rule in the baseball rule book, but it didn’t take long before hundreds of “experts” started offering their interpretations. Everybody was pulling out the same rule book, but partisans on […]

One of the panels I attended at the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution spring conference turned into something of a psychology experiment. The presenters asked the participants to sit around a series of circular tables, and assigned each table a role to play as groups interested in a proposed canal project for a hypothetical harbor. My table was assigned to play several environmental groups opposed to the project for differing reasons, another table represented shipping company owners concerned about the cost, another represented union interests favorable to the project, and another represented government representatives sponsoring the project. We were asked to discuss among ourselves our concerns about the process that was supposed to take into account all of these different […]

We tell stories to make sense of experience. We need to organize the chaos of events in the form of stories, containing a beginning, a middle and and end. By doing that, events acquire meaning. We tell stories to define who we are. Tomorrow night my family will gather to re-tell the Passover story, a defining story of the Jewish people, as it charts a journey from slavery to the promised land. Every culture defines itself by telling their own stories. We also tell stories as a means of resolving conflict. One thing that trial has in common with mediation is that both forms of dispute resolution provide an opportunity for the parties to the conflict to tell their stories. […]

Piers Morgan’s interview earlier this week with radio host Alex Jones has gotten lots of attention, due to Jones’s seemingly-unprovoked fiery outbursts and threatening manner. Morgan probably accomplished what he wanted to accomplish by having Jones on the show. He exposed the raving right wing conspiracy theories behind at least some Americans’ attachment to guns, and probably scared a lot of people already sympathetic to gun control. At the same time, however, Morgan probably didn’t convince a lot of people who might be sympathetic to Jones’s views, and he didn’t even begin to engage in a constructive dialogue about responses to the problem of gun violence that we might get most people to agree on. Was that Morgan’s fault? He […]