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Peace and Conflict Psychology



[BSc], Psyc, GJ, WP

Admission Requirements

Introduction to Psychology is a pre-requisite for this course.

If you do not meet this requirement but would still like to take the course, please contact the instructor to ensure suitability. This is particularly the case for students who have taken other psychology courses or who are interested in peace and conflict studies.


Psychology is the science of mind and behaviour and as such, psychologists are interested in understanding why people behave the way they do. This course will focus on psychology’s contribution to understanding and improving intergroup relations. To provide a comprehensive account the course will consider both negative and positive peace, addressing questions including:

  • What are the causes of conflict and direct violence?

  • How can we understand the impact of structural and cultural violence?

  • How can we reduce violent behaviour through interventions?

  • How can we promote equality for all?

The course will begin by outlining what peace psychology is, and will then move on to the causes of violence and conflict. The latter half of the course will address interventions and attempts to achieve resolution, reconciliation and social justice. The course will consider theories and empirical research from the fields of social, political and peace psychology. It will use these theories and empirical research to address important societal issues.

Course Objectives

This course aims to provide students with the knowledge to critically evaluate psychology’s contribution to understanding and improving intergroup relations. Throughout the course, students will engage with theories and empirical research which will be applied to understand real world phenomena.
Following completion of this course, successful students will:

  • Have a thorough understanding of theories and research, in peace and conflict psychology

  • Be able to identify how the theoretical approaches taught, can be applied to explain real world phenomena.

  • Be able to critically evaluate published research and conduct independent research.

  • Have the ability to summarise relevant theories and research, and present ideas in both oral and written form

Mode of Instruction

This course will consist of two x two hour weekly seminars which will be delivered through a combination of lectures, class discussion and group presentations. Each week, the first session will introduce a new topic through lectures, experiments and class participation. During weeks 2-6, the second session will involve presentations and discussion of papers related to the weekly topic. In these sessions, 4 students will present their summary and critical analysis of the assigned reading. Each presentation will last 15 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. The discussion will be led by groups of students.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

Students will take part in a series of assignments throughout the course. These are summarised in the table and presented in more detail below.

In class participation: 20%
Paper Presentation: 10 % summary, 10% presentation
Biography: 15%
Group project: 15%
Essay (2500 words): 30%

Students will be required to actively engage with allocated readings and to participate in class discussions. During the second session in weeks 2-6 this will involve reading assigned papers, preparing discussion points and writing short summaries.

Paper presentation
Each student will be required to deliver one 15 minute individual presentation. The presentations will take place during the second session in weeks 2-6. Presenters will be asked to submit (on Blackboard via safe assign) a 1000 word critical analysis of the paper they are presenting.

The mid-term assignment requires you to write a 1000 word biography of a prominent peace psychologist’s contribution to understanding and improving intergroup relations.

Group project
During the block, students will be expected to work on a group project. The aim of the group project is to apply the knowledge you learn throughout the course to a particular intergroup conflict. Each group will be required to produce a poster, which will be presented during the second session in week 7.

Final essay
The essay title will be provided in week 5. It will focus on a topic which hasn’t been covered in class, but is related to peace and conflict psychology.


Compulsory Literature

  • Christie, D. J., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. D. (Eds.) (2001). Peace, conflict, and violence: Peace psychology for the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. [Freely available from]

Other recommended reading will be in the weekly overview of the course syllabus.

Contact Information

Dr. Shelley McKeown: email

Weekly Overview

WEEK 1 Introduction to the course
Session 1 What is peace psychology?
Session 2 The history of peace psychology

WEEK 2 Sources and consequences of conflict
Session 1 Intergroup bias
Session 2 Paper presentations on threat, stereotypes, infrahumanization and enemy images.

WEEK 3 Psychological theories of conflict
Session 1 From the individual to the group
Session 2 Paper presentations on SDO, authoritarianism, relative deprivation and social identity theory

WEEK 4 Violence
Session 1 Direct and structural violence
Session 2 Paper presentations on genocide, intrastate violence, militarism, children and structural violence.

WEEK 5 Interventions: during conflict
Session 1 Intergroup contact
Session 2 Paper presentations on prejudice reduction, community interventions, imagined contact, the micro-ecology of segregation.

WEEK 6 Interventions post-conflict
Session 1 Resolution and reconciliation
Session 2 Paper presentations on problem solving workshops, forgiveness, collective memory, TRCs

WEEK 7 Social justice
Session 1 Collective action
Session 2 Poster presentations and course wrap-up

Reading week, final essay due.

Preparation for first session

Read: Introduction to peace psychology

Christie, D. J., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. D. (Eds.) (2001). Peace, conflict, and violence: Peace psychology for the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. [Freely available from]