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On stages of conflict escalation

Chapter in book
Authors Jens Allwood
Elisabeth Ahlsén
Published in Conflict and Multimodal Communication: Social Research and Machine Intelligence
Pages 53-69
ISBN 9783319140810
Publisher Springer
Publication year 2015
Published at Centre of Interdisciplinary Research/Cognition/Information. SSKKII (2010-)
Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 53-69
Language en
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics


One of the issues in the theory of conflict is the question of whether there are stages, steps, phases, or levels (the terminology varies with different authors) in conflict escalation and, if there are such stages, how many there are and what their respective identifying characteristics might be. Different authors have suggested different numbers of stages and different ways of characterizing them, e.g., Friedrich Glasl suggests nine steps, Douglas Noll suggests five phases, and Eric Brahm suggests eight phases. Some authors do not suggest a definite number of stages; rather, they give lists of possible stages, see, for example, the book Everyone Can Win by Cornelius, Faire, and Cornelius or the book Interpersonal Conflict Escalation Levels by Hocker and Wilmot. In our paper, we argue that there is not only one correct answer to the issue of how many stages of conflict escalation there are and what these stages are. Rather, we think that the number and types of stages must be related to the type of conflict we are concerned with. Thus, different types of conflict may typically show different numbers and stages with different properties. We illustrate this claim by an analysis of the number and types of stages found in short conflict episodes, occurring between politicians in televised political debates from different countries (Germany, Italy, Greece, and the USA), involving different types of conflict episodes, characterized by more or less aggressive, accusing, scornful, derisive, ironic, triumphant, defiant, resigned, etc. stances. An analysis of the “social signals” for these stances, i.e., multimodal expressions of such stances at different moments in the conflict episodes has yielded a set of clusters of behavior, which can be used for identifying possible stages, steps, or phases in the different types of episodes. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015.

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