Debra A. Gilin
Evaluation Management Training Group (EMT) – EMT Associates, Midwest Office; University of Missouri at Saint Louis – Department of Psychology
Paul W. Paese
Olin Business School, Washington University
IACM 15th Annual Conference
The goals of the study were (a) to test whether an attribution-focused mediation technique can improve conflict outcomes, and (b) to identify the cognitive mechanisms by which such intervention is effective. Three hundred seventy-one undergraduates assumed the role of a crime victim and view a taped mediation session. The brief intervention decreased participants’ negative attributions for the adversary’s behavior, and decreased the amount of retribution desired in the case.
Interactions supported hypotheses that the cognitive processing of conflict can follow two very different routes described by dual-process theories. Without effortful consideration of properly targeted intervention, conflict (attributions and demands) will escalate, while effortful consideration of attribution-focused intervention can suspend or reverse conflict escalation. Only participants not distracted during the intervention showed decreased their demands for retribution, and participants with a personal tendency to carefully analyze causal information (High NFC) exposed to the intervention drew the most positive attributions («central route» hypothesis). Participants made the most extreme demands when they fully attended to thecase without intervention, and participants drew the most negative attributions if they had a personal tendency to carefully analyze causal information (High NFC) and did not see the intervention («polarization hypothesis»).