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IC Thinking Departmental Research Group


The link between values and violence.

Humans can be violent for many reasons, but violence based on beliefs and ideologies has particular roots. Research has shown that how you think and how that leads you to feel about yourself and others plays a central role.

Do you see the world in black and white and feel that your perspective is the only valid perspective?


Are you able to recognise multiple perspectives and feel comfortable in seeing others as having good points and bad points?

These questions relate to what psychologists call "cognitive complexity" and its related construct "integrative complexity".  Research has demonstrated that low integrative complexity, that describes a simple, narrow, categorical way of thinking, is one of the best predictors for whether a conflict will become violent or resolve peacefully. 

The IC Thinking research group has pioneered a series of successful interventions which help people see their world, their allies and members of other diverse groups in more complex ways. We do this through a variety of approaches that cultivate life skills such as meta-awareness, values affirmations, active listening, emotion regulation, and critical thinking.

Interventions have been piloted and assessed in a wide variety of conflict contexts in the United Kingdom, Kenya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pakistan, and Scandinavia with many other interventions currently in development. Interventions are assessed by measuring changes in integrative complexity, which, as a measure of structure not the content of thinking, is less vulnerable to the biases inherent in measures which rely on self-reporting.

Thus far our results find that participants consistently demonstrate increased cognitive complexity and resilience following the interventions, which means they are less likely to turn to violence, and more equipped to deal with conflict constructively.

Based on these exciting results, we continue to expand the research, development and implementation of IC Thinking interventions in order to improve the lives of participants and prevent violence in fragile conflict contexts.