What triggers conflict in the first place is of fundamental importance to the military, and research suggests that culture plays a role in how events are interpreted in this context. For example, violations of face and the ensuing shame that results is a powerful motivator of conflict within collectivist cultures; in contrast, while in individualistic cultures, conflict is often triggered by violation of personal rights. Gelfand, Bell, and Shteynberg (2005) found that shame is more contagious among collectivist cultures than in individualistic ones and often leads to actions aimed at seeking revenge. Interestingly, even witnessing another person experiencing shame is enough to trigger revenge seeking among collectivist individuals, according to Gelfand. Given these findings, research on the cultural basis of events that spark conflict is critical to the military, as are historical analyses (see, e.g., Mahoney and Rueschemeyer, 2003) and sociological analyses (see, e.g., Moskos, Williams, and Segal, 2000) of the interpretations of those events.

Finally, it is lamentable that little is known about the effectiveness of various strategies for reducing conflict across cultures. For example, Gelfand notes that researchers have documented the effectiveness of apologies for reducing aggression, fostering forgiveness, and repairing trust, but they have failed to examine the role that apologies play in reducing intercultural conflicts (Tavuchis, 1991). Other strategies that may be even more effective in reducing aggression and building trust need to be identified and studied. A systematic effort to document the prevalence of various conflict reduction strategies across cultures as well as their effectiveness when applied in different cultures warrants research attention by the military.

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