Research by Dr. Al Au sheds light on the dynamics of dyadic conflict through an integrative approach combining self-construal and the opponent’s stance.
Why and when do people stand firm or give in during conflicts?
Recent research by Dr. Al Au (pictured above) from the Department of Psychology in NUS and Dr. Shui-fong Lam from the University of Hong Kong has proposed an integrative approach that considers self-construal and the opponent’s stance to understand response patterns in conflict situations between two parties (i.e., dyadic conflict).
Self-construal relates to how people define the self—whereas independent self-construal refers to the use of personal attributes to define the self, relational self-construal involves defining the self through significant relationships.
Dr. Au commented,
When dealing with a conflict situation, people often overestimate how they could shape the situation but underestimate how they would be affected by the other side. In this paper, we attempt to illustrate that responses in a conflict could be an interplay of personal and opponent factors.
In their study, the researchers presented participants with a desert survival problem, in which they and another participant were described as co-pilots of a plane that had crashed and left them as the only survivors. Participants were asked to select 12 potentially useful objects from the crash site to facilitate their rescue, and to discuss the importance of their selected objects with the other party online. Unbeknownst to participants, all responses by their “opponent” were, in fact, generated by a computer programme.
When an independent self-construal had been induced in participants through instructing them to focus on their individual performance and devise the best solution for themselves, participants showed self-centred patterns of conflict response (e.g., insisting on their own views) regardless of whether their opponent’s stance was dominant (e.g., expressing opinions firmly) or submissive (e.g., commenting in a self-doubting way).
In contrast, when participants had been induced to adopt a relational self-construal through instructions to focus on the relationship during the task and devise the best solution for both parties, they showed tuning-in patterns of conflict response that considered their opponent’s stance. For instance, participants displayed yielding responses when their opponent was dominant, but contending responses when their opponent was submissive.
Interestingly, these effects were observed among participants with low, but not high, trait independent self-construal, pointing to the importance of simultaneously considering both trait and experimentally manipulated self-construal.
Au, A. K. C., & Lam, S. (2017). Understanding response patterns in dyadic conflict: An interactive approach combining self-construal and opponent’s dominance-submissiveness. International Journal of Psychology, 52, 116-125. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12193