Human–wildlife conflict is one of the most critical threats facing many wildlife species today, and the topic is receiving increasing attention from conservation biologists. Direct wildlife damage is commonly cited as the main driver of conflict, and many tools exist for reducing such damage. However, significant conflict often remains even after damage has been reduced, suggesting that conflict requires novel, comprehensive approaches for long-term resolution. Although most mitigation studies investigate only the technical aspects of conflict reduction, peoples' attitudes towards wildlife are complex, with social factors as diverse as religious affiliation, ethnicity and cultural beliefs all shaping conflict intensity. Moreover, human–wildlife conflicts are often manifestations of underlying human–human conflicts, such as between authorities and local people, or between people of different cultural backgrounds. Despite evidence that social factors can be more important in driving conflict than wildlife damage incurred, they are often ignored in conflict studies. Developing a broader awareness of conflict drivers will advance understanding of the patterns and underlying processes behind this critical conservation issue. In this paper, I review a wide variety of case studies to show how social factors strongly influence perceptions of human–wildlife conflict, and highlight how mitigation approaches should become increasingly innovative and interdisciplinary in order to enable people to move from conflict towards coexistence.