Our Brains at War: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding

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Thursday, September 30, 2021 -

9:30am to 10:30am

Zoom meeting


The latest in the SPCS Speaker Series on Society, Technology, Peace and Security:

 Talk by: Mari Fitzduff: Our Brains At War: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding, Sept 30, 9.30 (zoom link forthcoming)

 Our Brains at War: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding suggests that we need radical change in how we think about war, leadership, and politics. Most of us, including most political scientists, fail to appreciate that the main factors in today's identity wars and politics arise not from logic but from instincts and emotions, against which reason often has little sway. Many of our physiological and genetic tendencies, of which we are mostly unaware, can easily fuel our antipathy toward other groups, make us choose supposedly "strong" leaders over more mindful leaders, facilitate the recruitment of fighters for both legal and illegal militia groups, and enable even the most seemingly gentle of us to inflict horrific violence on others. Unfortunately, in today's world, such instincts and emotions also increase our susceptibility to being easily led toward hateful activities by social media. Without understanding the genetic, neural, and hormonal tendencies that facilitate such predispositions, it will be extremely difficult to achieve sustainably peaceful societies. Drawing on the latest research from newer sciences such as social biopsychology, behavioral genetics, political psychology, and social and cognitive neuroscience, this book identifies the sources and the consequences of such instincts and emotions. It also suggests that we need new and radical ways of dealing with societal and global conflicts by openly addressing the biological factors that help create them and by taking them into account in our plans for more constructive politics and more effective peacebuilding in our increasingly fracturing world. 

 Mari Fitzduff is Professor and founding director of the master’s professional programs in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence at Brandeis University. Previously she was Chair of Conflict Studies at Ulster University in Northern Ireland where she was Director of UNU/INCORE, a United Nations research body examining the many ways in which conflicts can be mitigated or ended.  From 1990-97 she was the founding Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, a semi-public body that funded and helped develop conflict resolution programs with government, statutory bodies, trade unions, churches, community groups, security groups, paramilitaries, prisoners, businesses, and politicians. Fitzduff has worked on conflicts in the Basque Country, the Caucasus, Sri Lanka, Middle East, Indonesia, Russia, Crimea, Korean, Japan, Cameroon, Philippines, Peru, and Columbia.  Her books include Fitzduff, M and Stout, C. (Eds) The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace. 3 Vols. Praeger Press (2005), Fitzduff, M (Ed) Public Policies in Shared Societies Palgrave MacMillan (2013),Fitzduff, M.(Ed)  ‘Why Irrational Politics Appeals: Understanding the Allure of Trump’ (2017),  Fitzduff, M and Williams, S. Dialogue in divided societies: Skills for working with groups in conflict (2019.) Her most recent book is Our Brains at War: The Neuroscience of Conflict and Peacebuilding, published by Oxford University Press.