Carsten de Dreu awarded ERC Advanced Grant for research on conflicts between groups

Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology Carsten de Dreu has been awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. This subsidy of 2.5 million euros will allow De Dreu to carry out research on the causes of conflicts between groups at both macro- and micro-level.

Conflicts between groups of people are part of life. ‘In the behavioural sciences we already know a lot about inter-group conflicts, particularly about the microprocesses that play a role between or within groups,’ De Dreu says. Historical and geographical research gives us a different picture, in particular that scarcity at macro-level – for example, as a result of climate change or economic decline – can lead to social unrest and war. ‘I want to explore how this pressure at macro-level works its way through to the micro-processes that are going on prior to a conflict between groups of people. Are they independent of one another, or is one caused by the other? And how does that work?’ 

Continuance of a group under pressure
De Dreu’s research project combines knowledge about macro-pressure from climate research and political geography with what we already know about  micro-processes from behavioural sciences. A critical link, according to De Dreu, is stress-bearing capacity. This is stress that a group experiences when the group’s means of existence are under pressure and the group feels its future is under threat. If climate changes or macro-economic developments create stress that exceeds the stress-bearing capacity, a whole range of micro-processes within and between groups is set off that are predicted to incite and escalate conflicts. With this ERC Advanced Grant, De Dreu will be able to test this new theory on the basis of archive research, time series analysis and experimental lab research. 

ERC Advanced Grants
Every year the ERC provides Advanced Grants to prominent experienced scientists, to ‘allow them to research their most creative ideas and to generate findings that will have a major impact on science, society and the economy.’ This year, 269 researchers in Europe  were awarded an ERC Advanced Grant, amounting to a total of 650 million euros. Thirteen of these researchers are from the Netherlands. The projects awarded a subsidy will be carried out at universities and research institutions in 20 countries within the European Research Area. Most of the projects (66 grants) will be carried out in Great Britain; the Netherlands is in sixth place with 16 projects.