Conflict is the obverse of cooperation. Human sociality in general and specifically our complex institutions for collective action are multi-leveled, with neural, cognitive, interpersonal, and emergent network components. Only a multi-levelled approach to understanding it will be able to illuminate this phenomena -- simplistic explanations don't do it justice. The imaging techniques Saxe uses promise to be an important probe. -- Howard
"Our society is built of a bunch of minds trying to work together. It seems like having better, more scientific understanding of the mind is the only possible way to have a better functioning society. That's the big idea, which seems quite ludicrous. Then the question is to try to work it out in an example. The example is almost as ludicrous. The example I'm working on right now is conflict and conflict resolution: how to make groups of people that are suspicious of one another and on the brink of war with one another more tolerant, more accepting, more forgiving, and more capable of working together. There are a bunch of ways that the kind of neuroscience I've done could help in that context.
The science that I do is on how our brains let us think about other minds. There's at least three ways that that kind of science could help us think about conflict. One is the idea that conflict is actually conflict about other people's minds. What conflict is, in part, is the suspicion of other people's motives, the inability to trust and forgive, and the way that our expectations of group boundaries make us less empathetic and more damning of other people's actions."