Social Psychology Peace Research: The needs of collective identities research

Vollhardt and Bilali (2008) focuses on the epistemology, concept, and concern of Social Psychology Peace Research (SPPR) that grows from elaboration of social psychology and psychology of peace. Social psychology, as stated by Vollhardt and Bilali, is uniquely positioned to analyze the interplay between the individual and the social or society in which also focuses on situational mediation systematically. Meanwhile, peace psychology itself is inherently in the concepts and research focuses of social psychology. Likewise as Vollhardt and Bilali noted that the study of peace is not a marginal topic in social psychology rather is in fact the core issue (pp. 13-15).

The ultimate goal of SPPR is to reduce and prevent conflict, and to promote positive relations between groups. In other words, peace psychological research is, by definition, inherently normative, and not value-neutral. SPPR tends to accommodate the value of peace in the specific context of place and time for the research (contextual).

Vollhardt and Bilali underline the intertwined of SPPR and the ‘mainstream’ psychology. They concluded that, “social psychological research not only contributes to the field of peace and conflict studies, but that SPPR is already an integral part of mainstream social psychology. Social psychology not only has the conceptual and methodological toolbox, but is already actively contributing to the psychological study of peace (p. 20).” SPPR and social psychology has become an integral part of research on preventing conflict and promoting peace.


Vollhardt and Bilali note the construct studies of SPPR focused mostly on bias and prejudice, social identity or group identification, intergroup attitudes, and intergroup contact topics. And in term of the theory itself, studies on social identity theory has become the most frequently studied by the SPPR journals (p. 18). As my interest of studies on inter-religious group conflicts, the notion of social identity or group identification becomes prominent research topics. As Saira Yamin examines (2008), “the role of identity, in term of individual identity and its relationship with the group since a person’s identity has many attributes as personal experience, memory, ethnicity, culture, religious orientation, occupational role, and gender. Personal identity is embedded into identity and element of group or “groupness” (Yamin, 2008: 6). The consequences of group identification, as asserted by Yamin, are the emersion of comparison and the consciousness of the “self” and “the other”. It creates required distance and boundaries to ‘dehumanize’ the other. Yamin proposes that, “threat to religious identity is potentially a source of high levels of violence and conflict that are often extremely difficult to resolve (Yamin, 2008: 9).” By this viewpoint in inter-religious conflict, the studies of social identity and social identity theory are certainly as the core studies that underlies what SPPR aims to prevent and reduce conflict and to promote positive relations between groups in the certain context. []



Vollhardt, Johanna K. and Bilali, Rezarta, “Social Psychology’s Contribution to the Psychological Study of Peace: A Review”, Social Psychology 2008, Vol. 39(1):12–25.

Yamin, Saira, “Understanding Religious Identity and the Causes of Religious Violence”, in Peace Prints: South Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, Vol. 1, No. 1: Spring 2008, pp. 1-21.


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