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Crisis and the Role of Neuroscience in Mitigating Conflicting Issues

April 20, 2020

Across the world -- be it developing or developed nations, the global crisis of COVID-19 -- is looming all over. It is quite unprecedented and erratic. None of us have had an occasion to prove our preparedness in fighting against an unknown, asymptomatic opponent like COVID-19 pandemic. Almost, all the nations are battling against the ‘never seen before’ crisis.

It is evident that conflict explodes more in crisis. And if the scale and velocity of crisis affect the nations all over the world, chances are we would fail to contain it. Hence, it becomes all the more a concern to understand and what drives people to and away from conflicts at different levels in the given critical phase of world turmoil. This is true, particularly, in a global scenario where nations are blaming, suspecting, accusing and passing the buck at each other.

The researchers and industry practitioners posit that the fields of study, for instance, psychology, cognitive science, evolutional biology, anthropology, political science and sociology have aided in unraveling new vistas of knowledge in understanding the conflict resolution over the years. However, there have been no such broader, wider, sustainable and inclusive frameworks or solutions when it comes to eliminating chaos of subtle conflicts amongst individuals, groups, companies, or nations.

Nonetheless, in recent years, as a field of study, neuroscience played a significant role in revealing some of the breakthrough research findings through multitude of brain experiments. Several studies have found that the neuron networks in our brain plays a significant role in the way we tackle a conflicting situation, especially at odd times or mega-crises. Hence, neuroscience as a discipline started gaining a lot of currency in recent years in understanding the perversions that happen within the conflict. Countries like, U.S.A.U.K. France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Japan, China have been making remarkable contributions in answering the questions of ‘why’ of conflicts in crisis situations.

The central focus of the research is happening now on the question of how neuroscience can be applied to different disciplines in relation to decision-making. Hence, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary researches have been funded by government and international funding agencies. It is to study the next level of conflict wherein the study of human brain or neuroscience is being explored to find answers of difficult questions to resolve conflict in crisis.

In fact, studies reveal the conscious and subconscious decisions within conflict. Scans, neuro-imaging and computational neuroscience techniques within neuroscience research play vital role in understanding human brain. It has been studied that the human brain is conscious about physical threat as it used to be in

hunter or gatherer stage in early-man era. However, millions of years later, human beings remained ingrained with similar threat. The new threat identified in the study has been – Social threat in terms of belittling us or crushing our impression by others, spoiling reputation or image before others. Social threat is seen in terms of not achieving the objectives, blaming others for the loss and triggering non-conscious brain in fight or flight mode of conflict.

The tendency what we see in conflict is to win the argument and prove us right. Often, the non-conscious brain, especially reflected in the form of our strong emotions, overpowers the conscious brain, which normally drives us to be stable in a given odd situation. Hence, due to the affect of non-conscious brain, we express overly our emotions-we cry, weep, get angry, and/or feel disgusted. Under the influence of such over emotions, it results into poor relationship with the counterparts, leading to ill-feelings for others and vice-versa.

A lot more is awaited to be studied in the field of neuroscience to mitigate the conflicting interests of any set of opponents; be individuals, social groups, political systems, economically powerful or weaker nations for that matter!

Dr, Vimal Babu, Professor & Associate Dean, Unitedworld School of Business (UWSB)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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