The Interplay of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Conflicts as a Barrier to Sustainable Solutions

Project: Research

Project participants


Many important social issues of our times involve conflicts of interests that require joint decision making between conflicting parties via negotiations. Over the past five decades, negotiation research has made a constant effort to explore psychological processes that impact conflict resolution on the social level. However, overlooked by most negotiation research is the fact that many conflicts do not only involve divergent interests across parties but also involve divergent interests across time. That is, parties may not only perceive a conflict of interests between their own and their counterparts’ interests (i.e., interpersonal conflict), but also between their own interests in the present and their own interests in the future (i.e., intrapersonal conflict). Such intrapersonal conflicts have been intensely studied in decision-making research, yet, hardly ever considered in negotiation research. The superordinate goal of the present research project is to integrate both lines of research and to investigate the interplay of interdependent psychological conflicts on the social (i.e., interpersonal conflict) and the temporal (i.e., intrapersonal conflict) dimension. Building on both lines of research, I propose that the interplay of interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts is particularly difficult to resolve when such conflicts are interdependent: Parties do not only have to coordinate their own interests with their counterpart’s interests, but also have to reconcile their present and future interests simultaneously. Mutually satisfying and sustainable conflict solutions can only be reached when parties consider their conflicting interests on the social and temporal level in a comprehensive way. Based on prior decision-making and negotiation research, I develop a theoretical framework of interdependent conflicts that begins with the premise that parties resolve interdependent conflicts in a prioritized rather than a comprehensive, unbiased way. Referring to the psychological mechanisms of social devaluation, temporal discounting, and perceived autonomy in decision making, I predict that parties will give first priority to the solution of ongoing social conflicts (i.e., present interpersonal conflicts), second priority to the solution of conflicts between present and future interests (i.e., intrapersonal conflicts), and third priority to the solution of future social conflicts (i.e., future interpersonal conflicts). By investigating the interplay of social and temporal conflicts, the present research seeks to understand unexplored barriers to sustainable conflict resolution and to introduce them to social psychology in general and to negotiation research in particular.

Research outputs