Sheldon G. Levy
April 1, 2001
The quantitative study of inter-group conflict, most notably war, has attended to objectively measured variables of aggregate units such as the state or the conflict event. The relevance of psychology, which focuses on the individual, is not guaranteed even though the aggregates are composed of individuals. The discipline might be relevant by providing some further understanding/explanation for the existence of relationships among the larger units and empirical psychology has developed a number of generalizations about individual behavior based on replicable observations. By itself, this would not guarantee the contribution of psychological research and concepts to the prediction of the occasion and/or intensity of human conflict. The most elementary requirement would involve establishing that group properties are at least somewhat dependent upon individual characteristics. Were this the case, an important contribution might be through theories of human behavior. However, psychological theory engenders a number of logical problems. Although internal mental processes not easily predictable from known environmental-biological facts may reasonably be established, much psychological theory consists of hypothetical constructs that do not represent conjectures about internal physical reality. These constructs, by their nature, connote more than that contained in either operational definitions or indices of them. Their potential utility requires a deductive system that conforms to the logical requirements of any logical system and which is activated under specifiable conditions and also includes overt behavior as a consequence. Psychological models then might contribute more than understanding/explanation such as the ability to predict behavior from environments not yet observed as well as alternative behaviors under similar environmental circumstances. A number of implications for the unit of analysis and for conflict theory derive from these considerations.