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

Prejudice Reduction Programs

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The term "prejudice" refers to stereotypes which lead  parties to view their opponents as threatening adversaries who are inherently inferior or are actively pursuing immoral objectives. Such prejudices lead the parties to view others as enemies who must be actively opposed. This results in a persistent level of destructive tension which can easily escalate into a highly destructive, all-out confrontation.

Prejudice reduction refers to a collection of techniques designed to break down these destructive stereotypes. Most often prejudice reduction programs take place on a small scale--in workshops, for example, which bring together people from different groups to help them develop a better mutual understanding.  At times,  efforts are made to reduce prejudice among the general population.  This can be done with widespread media efforts and/or public education programs, often implemented during the grade school years.

In both small scale and large scale efforts, a first step which is critical to the success of these programs is an ability to overcome the many communications problems cited elsewhere in this training program. This is because a great deal of prejudice arises from simple misunderstandings and the tendency to make worse case assumptions in the absence of reliable information. At the workshop level, facilitators can help people explore their stereotypes, and learn to communicate with each other in a more open, trusting, and receptive way.  At the community or societal level, misunderstandings can be addressed through carefully crafted public media campaigns and/or education programs designed to counter common stereotypes and present all groups in their best possible light.

Still, correcting poor communication may is not usually enough to overcome prejudice. Better communication may simply prove that the parties do, in fact, hold each other in mutual contempt, or that they are, indeed, trying to undermine each others interests. Often such hostility is the result of escalation processes which transform relatively minor provocations into intense confrontations. For this reason strategies for limiting escalation are also an essential component of effective prejudice reduction.  This also can be attempted in workshop settings or at the larger, community level.  

The final key to prejudice reduction is the willingness of the parties to tolerate their differences, especially with regard to moral issues. This is where the integrative system's search for common values which transcend differing values becomes critical. 

All of these elements ultimately need to be combined into a coordinated process which will enable the parties to understand how prejudices are undermining their own interests and how prejudice reduction can be accomplished.

It is also important to recognize that there are likely to be some individuals who can be expected to resist any prejudice reduction efforts. While these individuals are likely to present continuing problems, the ability to reduce prejudices among other members of a group is still likely to yield important benefits.

Links to Examples of Prejudice Reduction Programs

Stephen Ryan--Peace-Building and Conflict Transformation
Prejudice reduction programs are one of several approaches to peacebuilding listed in this essay.

Links to Related Approaches

Opening Lines of Communication
Question Stereotypes
Stereotype-Breaking Actions
Communication Accuracy
Finding Commonality
Coexistence and Tolerance
Links to Related Problems
Misinterpretation of Communication
Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective
Inaccurate and Overly Hostile Stereotypes
Out-Group / Enemy Image

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