The first meeting of the Project on Justice in Times of Transition occurred earlier this year. Matt Armstrong, one of the attendees, blogged about it at his Mountain Runner. Excerpt:
What if you put neuroscientists, social scientists, conflict resolution experts, and diplomats together in a room? Is there something to the “human dimension” of conflict that the science of the brain can inform the art of conflict resolution and mitigation? The Project on Justice in Times of Transition, in partnership with the SaxeLab at MIT, launched the initiative “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century” to find out.
The first meeting was February 9-11, 2012, at MIT in Boston. PJTT and SaxeLab brought together a high-level group of experienced leaders from the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Central America with conflict conflict resolution experts, social psychologists, and leading neuroscientists to survey the latest findings in neuroscience and brain research to brainstorm and exchange ideas for addressing conflict.
I attended the February meeting and it was an eye-opening few days that started early and continued over dinner into the night. The presentations were honest, devoid of grandiose assertions of magic bullets, and each were followed by collegial discussions fueled by fresh questions and ideas.
Rebecca Saxe, the Director of SaxeLab, highlighted some of the general assumptions most scientists looking at conflict and conflict resolution share:
- People respond to conflict as human beings and there is some generalized experience that can be captured
- Behaviors can reflect emotions, associations, norms, and narratives that are not accessible through cognition or introspection
- People resist changing their minds and simple persuasion is almost never sufficient to make them change
The science presentations shared research on how particular parts of the brain were involved with specific behavior and emotions, such as fear. ...
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