Third Parties, Violence, and Conflict Resolution

Levine, M., Taylor, P. J., & Best, R. (2011). Third parties, violence, and conflict resolution: The role of group size and collective action in the microregulation of violence. Psychological Science, 22 (3), 406-412.

Traditionally, social psychological research has supported the idea that third parties tend to increase disorderly behavior in potentially violent situations and that the likelihood of aggression increases with group size. However, due to practical and ethical considerations, few studies have examined the role of third parties and group size in real world conflict situations. Levine, Taylor, and Best (2011) examined the behaviors of third parties in surveillance videos of public spaces in the United Kingdom, in which there was a potential for violent incidents. Behaviors of third party individuals were coded as either escalatory (e.g., pushing or hitting the victim) or conciliatory (e.g., stepping between the victim and perpetrator). Results showed that third parties may play a central role in promoting prosocial behavior. In contrast to traditional findings, the authors found that third parties were more likely to reduce violence in these situations and this effect became stronger as group size and the number of third parties increased.

Making Connections

Conflict resolution
Group dynamics
Prosocial behavior

Media Supplement

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