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This project brought together a uniquely qualified multidisciplinary team for the construction and testing of a dynamical-systems model of intractable conflict. The theory is being written in the language of the social sciences, but the concepts have counterparts in the mathematical descriptions of attractors from the physical sciences that are sufficiently precise to provide the basis for computer simulation testing of the model. The objectives of our team are to empirically test, validate, and revise our dynamical-systems theory of intractable conflict from the results of case studies, laboratory experiments, computer simulations, and theoretical discussions, and to disseminate the findings of our research through publications, presentations, educational offerings, and through our website. The long-term goals of our projects is to develop a robust theoretical model and simulation tools that will have utility for scholars, policy-makers, and conflict management practitioners in preventing and addressing intractable conflicts.

We are currently developping the following research initiatives:

Studying Intractable conflict as a dynamical system 

This research program consists of studies to explore and test hypotheses concerning the dynamical perspective on intractable conflict and computer simulations to develop and test a formal model of intractability. The studies focus on three aspects: (1) the conditions promoting linear versus nonlinear shifts in behavioral negativity (e.g., hostility) in response to escalating and de-escalating levels of provocation; (2) the association between intractability and low complexity in interpersonal dynamics; and (3) the potential for conflict resolution through the disassembly and reconfiguration of attractors for conflict. The results of these studies will be incorporated in the computer simulations to generate a model of intractability that formalizes the relationship between complexity and attractor landscapes for conflict in individual and social systems.


This project involves research in the following areas:

  • Peace as Emergence: A Case Study of Mozambique
  • A line of experiments on conflict escalation and de-escalation dynamics
  • A series of experiments on Attractor Disassembly and Reconfiguration in Conflict Transformation
  • A line of research on Low Complexity and Intractability of Conflict in Group Interaction


Dynamic Models of the Effect of Culture on Collaboration and Negotiation.
Gelfand, M., Coleman, P.T., Bartoli, A., Nowak, A., and Bui-Wrzosinska, L.

This project involves:

    • The Development of a Dynamic Measurement Tool to Study Culture and Conflict Escalation

    • Modeling Culture and Social Influence Processes