Summary of "Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis"

Summary of

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis

By Joel Brockner and Jeffrey Rubin

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Brockner, Joel and Jeffrey Rubin. Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1985.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis is an social-psychological investigation into the phenomena of entrapment. The authors attempt to synthesize findings from a number of studies into a general account of entrapment.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis will be of interest to those who seek a better theoretical understanding of the factors and processes which produce entrapment, and promote conflict escalation. This work is divided into eleven chapters, with subject and author indices.

Chapter One defines the concept of entrapment. The authors define entrapment as "a decision making process whereby individuals escalate their commitment to a previously chosen, though failing, course of action in order to justify or 'make good on' prior investments."[5] Entrapment is identified as a form of conflict escalation. Various examples of entrapment are given. Chapter Two introduces the research techniques which have been use to study entrapment. The authors' research has been conducted primarily through laboratory research, using games and simulations. The various games are introduced and compared, and each games special features noted. Chapter Three argues that entrapment is a common phenomena, and that it can be fruitfully studied under laboratory conditions.

Chapters Four to six present research results. Chapter Four examines nonsocial factors which influence entrapment. Nonsocial factors include expectancy value or economically based factors, structural characteristics of the context, whether the decision making is active or passive, how the situation is framed. Passive decision making in negatively framed situations tends toward entrapment. Chapters Five and Six investigate the social factors influencing entrapment. Chapter Five focuses on the social influence of competition, and on how this factor is affected by other social differences. The effects of sex, attraction or aggression, available role models, and group membership on entrapment are examined. Chapter Six discusses the role of self-presentation in entrapment, emphasizing the effect of decision makers' desires to save face, and the effect of self-diagnosticity.

Chapter Seven explores the psychology of the entrapment process. It first describes psychological consequences of entrapment, such as changing motivations, and increased involvement or 'tunnel vision.' It then discusses the behavioral implications of these psychological shifts. Chapter Eight examines the impact that individual differences and personality have on entrapment. The authors find that research to date sheds little light on whether there is such a thing as the "entrapment-prone personality."

Chapter Nine describes cognitive and motivational factors which allow individuals to either avoid or escape entrapment. Entrapment can be reduced if decision makers are aware and mindful of the costs and possible outcomes. This chapter also discusses the conditions under which it may be appropriate for decision makers of escalate their commitment to a particular course of action, that is, to become further entrapped. Chapter Ten applies these findings to entrapment in interpersonal, international, and organizational contexts, and particularly to work situations, political decision making, and intimate personal relationships. Chapter Eleven concludes by suggesting areas for further studies.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis is a fairly technical text presenting research into the social psychology of entrapment and conflict escalation. This text will be most helpful to the reader who has a basic understanding of sociology.