The Behavioral Scientists Working Toward a More Peaceful World

Interview by Heather Graci: “…Nation-level data doesn’t help us understand community-level conflict. Without understanding community-level conflict, it becomes much harder to design policies to prevent it.

Cikara: “So much of the data that we have is at the level of the nation, when our effects are all happening at very local levels. You see these reports that say, “In Germany, 14 percent of the population is immigrants.” It doesn’t matter at the national level, because they’re not distributed evenly across the geography. That means that some communities are going to be at greater risk for conflict than others. But that sort of local variation and sensitivity to it, at least heretofore, has really been missing from the conversation on the research side. Even when you’re in the same place, in the same country within the same state, the same canton, there can still be a ton of variation from neighborhood to neighborhood. 

“The other thing that we know matters a lot is not just the diversity of these neighborhoods but the segregation of them. It turns out that these kinds of prejudices and violence are less likely to break out in those places where it’s both diverse and people are interdigitated with how they live. So it’s not just the numbers, it’s also the spatial organization. 

“For example, in Singapore, because so much of the real estate is state-owned, they make it so that people who are coming from different countries can’t cluster together because they assign them to live separate from one another in order to prevent these sorts of enclaves. All these structural and meta-level organizational features have really, really important inputs for intergroup dynamics and psychology.”..(More)”.