OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Misinterpreted Motives

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An opponent's motives can be misinterpreted just as their communication can be. This often happens as a result of negative stereotypes that people develop of their opponents in a dispute. As conflicts escalate, communication deteriorates, and distrust tends to build. Opponents are framed in increasingly negative ways–as short-sighted, stubborn, selfish, even evil. Given such a negative mindset, disputants often misinterpret the motives of their opponents, assuming them to be more aggressive or more hostile than they actually are. This can result in an overly hostile and aggressive response, which feeds the escalation cycle.

Links to Examples of This Problem

Alexander George -- United States-Japan Relations Leading to Pearl Harbor
This is a story of how U.S. threats made to Japan were misinterpreted and led to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II.
Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
Both Iraq and the U.S. misinterpreted each other's motives before the Gulf War, contributing (along with other factors) to the failure of preventive diplomacy in this case.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The Astoria Affair)
This essay shows how cultural differences can cause unexpected misunderstandings.

 Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Opening Lines of Communication


Links to Related Problems


Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective

Misinterpretation of Communication

Out-Group / Enemy Image

Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu