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

Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes

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Stereotypes are generalizations, or assumptions, that people make about the characteristics of all members of a group, based on an image (often wrong) about what people in that group are like. For example, one study of stereotypes revealed that Americans are generally considered to be friendly, generous, and tolerant, but also arrogant, impatient, and domineering. Asians, on the other hand, were expected to be shrewd and alert, but reserved. Clearly, not all Americans are friendly and generous; and not all Asians are shrewd. If you assume you know what a person is like, and don't look at each person as an individual, you are likely to make errors in your estimates of a person's character.

In conflicts, people tend to develop overly-negative images of the other side. The opponent is expected to be aggressive, self-serving, and deceitful, for example, while people view themselves in completely positive ways. These stereotypes tend to be self-perpetuating. If one side assumes the other side is deceitful and aggressive, they will tend to respond in a similar way. The opponent will then develop a similar image of the first party, and the negative stereotypes will be confirmed. They may be grow worse, as communication is shut down and escalation heightens emotions and tension.


Examples of This Problem:

Paul Wehr--Misperception
Paul describes here how misperceptions can occur and become severe as conflict escalates.
J. William Breslin-- Breaking Away from Subtle Biases
This article gives examples of common stereotypes and discusses ways they can be avoided or altered.
Paul Wahrhaftig- The Myth of the Just War
This short article explains how stereotyping of Saddam Hussein was a major impetus behind the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia
This article talks about the necessity of reversing the nationalistic stereotypes held by the different groups involved in the Bosnian war.
Helen Wolle--Interpreting Violent Conflict: A Conference for Conflict Analysis and Journalists: Summary of Proceedings
This article describes the ways journalists can contribute to or prevent conflict escalation by changing their coverage of violent conflict.
Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy--Removing Roadblocks
This article describes ways around problems that may arise during negotiations.   One problem is that negative stereotypes will influence the parties' perceptions of their opponent and block potential cooperation between them.


Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Stereotype-Breaking Actions

Communication Improvement


Joint Projects

Disarming Moves

Establish Personal Relationships


Links to Related Problems:

Time Constraints

Personal Attacks

Out-Group/Enemy Image


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