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Getting Down to Basics: A Situated Model of Conflict in Social Relations


Peter T. Coleman is an associate professor of psychology and education and director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University, Teachers College in New York. His e-mail address is

Katharina G. Kugler is on the faculty at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. Her e-mail address is

Lan Bui-Wrzosinska is on the faculty at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Her e-mail address is

Andrzej Nowak is a professor of psychology at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, Poland. His e-mail address is

Robin Vallacher is a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. His e-mail address is


The field of conflict resolution is fractured. Despite many decades of fine research, we still lack a basic unifying framework that integrates the many theories of conflict dynamics. Thus, the findings from research on conflict are often piecemeal, decontextualized, contradictory, or focused on negative outcomes, which contributes to a persistent research-practice gap. In this article, we describe a situated model for the study of conflict that combines separate strands of scholarship into a coherent framework for conceptualizing conflict in dyadic social relations. The model considers conflict interactions in the context of social relations and employs prior research on the fundamental dimensions of social relations to create a basic framework for investigating conflict dynamics. The resulting model is heuristic and generative. We discuss the theoretical context and main propositions of this model as well as its implications for conflict resolution practitioners.