Bias Perception and the Spiral of Conflict

Kathleen A. Kennedy, Emily Pronin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Conflicts sometimes are characterized by a negative spiral, whereby they escalate due to the reciprocally aggressive and competitive behavior of the contending parties. This chapter proposes that people's inclination to perceive others as biased-particularly others who disagree with them-can initiate this conflict spiral, as well as fuel it and prevent its resolution. It reviews evidence that parties who disagree are especially likely to see those on the other side as biased and themselves as objective. Further, it demonstrates that people's perceptions of their adversaries as biased leads them to act conflictually towards those adversaries. That conflictual action, in turn, is perceived by its recipients as a sign of bias, thereby leading those recipients to respond conflictually, as the spiral continues. An understanding of this bias-perception conflict spiral illuminates how conflicts develop and grow between both individuals and groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIdeology, Psychology, and Law
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199918638
ISBN (Print)9780199737512
StatePublished - May 24 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Bias
  • Conflict resolution
  • Conflict spiral
  • Disagreement
  • Objectivity


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