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Asymmetric conflict: Structures, strategies, and settlement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 August 2019

Carsten K. W. De Dreu
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. Center for Research in Experimental Economics and Political Decision Making (CREED), University of Amsterdam, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. mail@joerg-gross.net
Jörg Gross
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands.


Our target article modeled conflict within and between groups as an asymmetric game of strategy and developed a framework to explain the evolved neurobiological, psychological, and sociocultural mechanisms underlying attack and defense. Twenty-seven commentaries add insights from diverse disciplines, such as animal biology, evolutionary game theory, human neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and political science, that collectively extend and supplement this model in three ways. Here we draw attention to the superordinate structure of attack and defense, and its subordinate means to meet the end of status quo maintenance versus change, and we discuss (1) how variations in conflict structure and power disparities between antagonists can impact strategy selection and behavior during attack and defense; (2) how the positions of attack and defense emerge endogenously and are subject to rhetoric and propaganda; and (3) how psychological and economic interventions can transform attacker-defender conflicts into coordination games that allow mutual gains and dispute resolution.

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