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Conflict Resolution faculty

Peter Coleman

Peter T. Coleman is professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, Director of the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR), Co-Executive Director of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation Conflict, and Complexity (AC4 at The Earth Institute at Columbia).

Dr. Coleman is a renowned expert on conflict resolution, particularly in addressing seemingly impossible conflicts of all types (from families to companies to communities to nations) and in working strategically towards constructive conflict resolution and sustainable peace. Previously, he served as a mental health worker for the youth population and a as community mediator for the New York State Criminal Court system. These experiences inspired him to pursue a doctorate in social and organizational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.

In 2007, Coleman became the lead investigator on “Modeling the Fundamental Dynamics of Intractable Conflict,” a multidisciplinary project funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation that applied the principles and methods of complexity science to understanding what Coleman calls “the five percent problem.” According to Dr. Coleman, to contend with this destructive species of conflict we must understand the invisible dynamics at work. Coleman has extensively researched the essence of these conflicts in his Intractable Conflict Lab, the first research facility devoted to the study of polarizing moral conversations and seemingly unresolvable disagreements. Informed by lessons drawn from practical experience, advances in complexity theory, and the psychological and social currents that drive conflicts both international and domestic, Coleman offers innovative new strategies for dealing with disputes of all types, ranging from abortion debates to the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2013, he founded the Dynamical Systems Theory Innovation Lab, a weeklong summer institute bringing together some of the world’s top complexity scientists and peacebuilders to foster breakthroughs in peace.

Dr. Coleman holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. in social and organizational psychology from Columbia University and a B.A. in communications from the University of Iowa. He is a founding member of the Academic Council of the United Nations Mediation Support Unit, has served on the boards of APA Division 48, the International Association of Conflict Management, and the Gbowee Peace Foundation USA. He is a research affiliate at the International Center for Complexity and Conflict (ICCC) at Warsaw School of Social Psychology. In 2003, he became the first recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence. Dr. Coleman co-edits The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice (Jossey-Bass, 3rd edition 2014), and has authored over 80 journal articles and chapters. He is also a New York State-certified mediator and experienced consultant. His most recent books include Attracted to Conflict: Dynamic Foundations of Destructive Social Relations (2013), Psychological Contributions to Sustainable Peace (2012), The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts (Public Affairs, 2011); and Conflict, Justice, and Interdependence: The Legacy of Morton Deutsch (2011). His most recent book, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is Making conflict work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). He also edits the ICCCR Science-Practice Blog, which summarizes leading edge empirical research on conflict management for a practitioner audience. He hosts the WKCR (89.9 FM) monthly radio program Peace and Conflict at Columbia: Conversations at the Leading Edge.