Peace Psychology

PSYC 2850

Professor: Dr. Linda M. Woolf

Office Hours:


Course Description:

Peace psychology is broad discipline as conflict and the need for peace occurs in all human arenas. Peace psychology research has been conducted in a variety of contexts examining such disparate concerns as domestic violence; school shootings; structural forms of violence (e.g., institutionalized forms of bias and the systematic violation of human rights); and mass violence, including ethnopolitical conflict, genocide, terrorism, and war. Peace psychologists have also worked to develop and assess programs aimed at teaching concepts and strategies of peace, effective conflict resolution skills, as well as reconciliation and reconstruction following conflict. Such programs have been implemented around the globe with such disparate populations as young school age children in the United States to survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

Peace psychology is not a stand-alone discipline. Rather it draws on research from other disciplines outside of as well as within psychology, including but not limited to clinical psychology, social psychology, political psychology, media psychology, developmental psychology, political science, history, education, sociology, international relations, and peace studies.

This course examines the key concepts, themes, theories, and practices involved in peace psychology. You will be introduced to the issues of peace and conflict across a wide range of interpersonal, community, national and international contexts. We will focus on multiple levels of analysis from micro to macro, and multi-disciplinary perspectives.

For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Course Objectives:

  1. Objective: To become more knowledgeable concerning the core concepts and methods involved in peace psychology.

  2. Objectives: To become familiar with various forms of direct violence ranging from intimate violence to mass violence and war.

  3. Objective: To examine the concept of structural violence and its impact on individuals, groups, and communities.

  4. Objective: To become familiar with the importance of and the strategies involved in understanding the various aspects of conflict including partisan perceptions.

  5. Objective: To examine the nature of conflict resolution including the psychological dimensions associated with peacekeeping and peacemaking for all parties involved in a conflict.

  6. Objective: To examine the psychological aspects of peacebuilding as individuals, groups, and communities move from intervention to reconciliation and reconstruction.

  7. Objective: To examine the steps involved in thinking like an activist.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Outcome: Students will be able to articulate and define the core concepts and methods involved in peace psychology.

  2. Outcome: Students will be define and highlight the core issues related to forms of direct violence including violence between intimates and violence within and between groups (e.g., genocide, war).

  3. Outcome: Students will be able to discuss the role of structural violence in societies, its impact on groups such as women, children, minorities, and its relation to such topics as globalism and human rights.

  4. Outcome: Students will be able to analyze a conflict and articulate the problem from multiple frames of reference. They will be able to articulate the concept of partisan perceptions and apply this concept to a conflict situation.

  5. Outcome: Students will be able to articulate the ideas and methods associated with various forms of conflict resolution.

  6. Outcome: Students will be able to discuss the psychological aspects of peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding and the differences between the three approaches.

  7. Outcome: Students will be able to address the issues of forgiveness, reconciliation and reconstruction in situations post-conflict.

  8. Outcome: Students will be able to develop and implement an activism plan addressing some area of peace psychology.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Class Meetings:

The class will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:00-11:50. Attendance is strongly recommended as material will be presented that is not in the book and class discussion will enhance your understanding of the material. Due to the importance of not only class attendance but also class participation, class participation constitutes a significant percentage of your final grade.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. --Bishop Desmond Tutu

Course Requirements:

Four exams, a presentation, and a paper.

Percent of Grade:

Examinations 75%
Paper 15%
Presentation 10%

Examinations: The four exams are designed to test for basic understanding of core concepts and ideas. They will cover material presented in class, readings, videos, and discussion. Exams will be worth 75% of your final grade.

Paper: The purpose of the paper is to provide you with the opportunity to explore an area of peace psychology in depth. The paper is to be a 7-10 page (approximately 2300 to 3000 words) literature review of some topic pertinent to peace psychology and will constitute 15% of your final grade. Policy: Topics must be approved by the instructor. Directions for topic submission will be discussed during the first week of class. Topics that have not been approved will not be accepted. Topics must be approved via email,, by September 24. Deadline for acceptance of papers is December 4, 2011. Note: These deadlines are not suggestions. Papers accepted following the deadline will experience a drop of one letter grade for every two days late except in cases of emergency discussed in advance with the instructor. It is up to the instructor's discretion whether to accept or not accept a paper following the December 4 deadline

All papers must reference a minimum of five references from refereed journals (not Psychology Today or Newsweek, for example). Of course to do most topics justice, more than five journal references are needed. Additionally, minimum performance on a paper equates to "average" performance in the grading scale provided above. Note: Do not rely heavily on popular literature, for example, a book you happen to see at Often, these books are not empirically based. Also, do not take the bulk of your paper from one source or from secondary sources. Use of information in your paper that is not empirically based will impact the grade negatively. I want an integration, analysis, and critique of the current research literature relevant to your paper topic.

Papers must be submitted electronically in Word format to

All papers must be typed, double-spaced, have 1 inch margins and in APA format. If you are in doubt as to what this means, see me for details.

Presentation: Students individually or in pairs will present material from one of the readings in class. You are not required to present all of the material in a chapter but select part of the chapter to present and extend the information with outside material. Each individual is responsible for a 10-15 minute presentation. Chapters will be assigned during the second week of class. Students must get their specific topic approved so that we don't overlap material presented. Presentations will be worth 10% of your final grade.

"There is no greater fallacy than the belief that aims and purposes are one thing, while methods and tactics are another." ---Emma Goldman

Policy Statements:

Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom: Please respect others in the class by turning off all cell phones and pagers before entering the room. Text messaging during class is not acceptable. Laptops may be used in class but are only to be utilized for class related activities (e.g., taking notes). If it becomes apparent you are using the computer for non-class activities (e.g., checking your email, playing games) then you may be asked to turn off your computer and refrain from bringing it into class in the future. Laptop use is restricted to the back or sides of the classroom so that other students are not distracted during lecture.

Plagiarism (attempting to pass off the work of another as one's own) is not acceptable. Plagiarism includes copying all or part of another's writings (even a single sentence), inappropriate paraphrasing, using another student's paper as your own, submitting a paper for more than one class. All papers will be submitted to the university's plagiarism database for review. Plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional, will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment and will be turned over to the appropriate university source for disciplinary action. In addition, cheating on exams will also result in the same fate.

Here are some Web sites that will help you avoid the problem of plagiarism particularly plagiarism resulting from paraphrasing too closely to the original source. -

It should be noted that, as is common in many university courses, little time will be spent lecturing on topics adequately addressed by the text. Students are expected to arrive at class meetings having already read the material assigned, and to ask questions to clarify any areas that remain unclear. While every attempt will be made to explain or expand upon particularly difficult areas, the primary purpose of classroom lecture is to enhance, rather than to duplicate, the textbook material.

Late withdraws from this class will not be approved by the instructor except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor. No late withdraws will be approved on the basis of poor class performance.

This syllabus is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. All changes concerning course requirements will be provided in writing. Changes concerning exam dates may be made at the instructor's discretion and communicated verbally to the class.

It is understood that remaining in this course (not dropping or withdrawing from this course) constitutes an agreement to abide by the terms outlined in this syllabus and an acceptance of the requirements outlined in this document. No grade of Incomplete will be issued for this course.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
--Dwight D. Eisenhower

Course Outline

The schedule below provides a general guideline to the semester and is flexible based on any need for additional discussion of a particular topic.

Week EndingTopic Readings
August 26
September 2
Introduction to the Class

What is Peace Psychology?
Core Concepts

  • Christie, D. J., Wagner, R. V., & Winter, D. (2001). Introduction to peace psychology.

September 9Thinking Like an Activist

  • Chapter 2, Thinking Like an Activist in Fisher, R., Schneider, A. K. Borgwardt, E., & Ganson, B. (1997). Coping With international conflict. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

September 16 Direct Violence: Intimate Violence

Exam I

  • Abrahams, N. (2001). Intimate violence.

September 23

Direct Violence: Violence against Minorities

Paper Topic Due (Sept. 24)

  • Woolf, L. M., & Hulsizer, M. R. (2004). Hate groups for dummies: How to build a successful hate group. Humanity and Society, 28, 40-62.

  • Murphy, B. C. (2001). Anti-gay/lesbian violence in the United States.

September 30Direct Violence: War

  • Druckman, D. (2001). Nationalism and war: A social-psychological perspective.

October 7

Direct Violence: Genocide and Democide

  • Woolf, L. M., & Hulsizer, M. R. (2005). Psychosocial roots of genocide: Risk, prevention, and intervention, Journal of Genocide Research, 7, 101-128.

October 14Direct Violence: Terrorism

Exam II

  • Woolf, L. M., & Hulsizer, M. R. (2002/2003). Intra- and inter- religious hate and violence: A psychosocial model. Journal of Hate Studies, 2, 5-26.

October 28 Structural Violence: Social Justice

  • Opotow, S. (2001). Social injustice

November 4Structural Violence: Women and Children

  • Schwebel, M., & Christie, D. (2001). Children and structural violence.

  • Mazurana, D., & McKay, S. (2001). Women, girls, and structural violence: A global analysis.

November 11Structural Violence: Globalism and Human Rights

Exam III

  • Pilisuk, M. (2001). Globalism and structural violence.

  • Lykes, M. B. (2001). Human rights violations as structural violence.

November 18 Conflict Resolution: Theoretical and Practical Concerns
  • Sanson, A., & Bretherton, D. (2001). Conflict resolution: Theoretical and practical concerns.

November 25The Psychology of Peacekeeping and Peacemaking
  • Langholtz, H. J. (1998). The evolving psychology of peacekeeping. In H. J. Langholtz (Ed.). The psychology of peacekeeping (pp. 3-16). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

  • Pedersen, P. B. (2001). The cultural context of peacemaking.

December 2Peacebulding: Psychologists Making a Difference

Paper Due (Dec. 4)

  • Montiel, C. J. (2001). Toward a psychology of structural peacebuilding.

  • Steger, M. B. (2001). Peacebuilding and nonviolence: Gandhi's perspective on power.

  • McKay, S., & Mazurana, D. (2001). Gendering peacebuilding.

  • Wessells, M. Schwebel, M., & Anderson, A. (2001). Psychologists making a difference in the public arena: Building cultures of peace.

December 9Reconciliation and Issues of Forgiveness

  • Borris, E., & Diehl, P. F. (1998). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and the contribution to international peacekeeping. In H. J. Langholtz (Ed.). The psychology of peacekeeping (pp. 207-222). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
See Final Exam Schedule Final course wrap-up/discussion and Final Exam

World Peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor - it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. --John F. Kenney

Back to Peace Psychology Course Page