This article explores the essence of a Peace-Oriented Mindset (POM), as well as the ways to measure it. Peace-orientation is an important characteristic in the social and educational contexts (e.g., Clarke-Habibi, 2005; Danesh, 2006). In this vein, it seems critical to analyze the nature and structure of this characteristic, as well as to develop an evaluation method.
A POM is especially critical when facing active or dormant conflicts, being a tall order for the individuals, families, groups, and societies involved (Praszkier & Munnik, 2022). This significance will be presented below, in the context of peacebuilding and prevention.
Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention
Peacebuilding and conflict prevention,1 especially in the area of intractable conflicts, require a specific psychology, namely, developing trust and cooperation (i.e., social capital; see: Coleman, 2000; Fukuyama, 1996; Putnam, 1993); indeed, some people have the propensity for building social capital (Zabłocka et al., 2016). Similarly, conflict prevention requires specific sensitivity for detecting lurking conflicts and empathy in order to preclude their outbreak.
Often, the conflict-related psychological atmosphere is one of mistrust and suspicion; hence, to make resolution attempts more effective, conflict parties need to be psychologically ready to enter a peace process (Rifkind & Yawanarajah, 2019). Sustaining peace, if seen as a durable process, requires a specific psychological context (Halperin, 2016; MacNair, 2012).
Along these lines, a process that changes individuals’ and groups’ perceptions about one another, in a way that reconciles them and transforms their relationships, would be desirable. The challenge is to transform the socio-psychological context so that it becomes a peace-enforcing environment (Lederach, 1996, 2003) whilst reaching beyond the actual conflict itself (Miall, 2004). This milieu-based approach would likely be more efficient than focusing directly on the history of conflict escalation, which may lead to setbacks and reverse the dynamics (Kelman, 1990).
Peacemakers should have the capability to identify and initiate cooperation in a neutral field, outside of the conflict area. In the dynamical approach, these neutral fields of cooperation are called “alternative attractors,” i.e., a set of factors that solidify the dynamics around a given equilibrium (Praszkier et al., 2010; Vallacher et al., 2010; Vallacher & Nowak, 2007).
In this vein, peace-orientation should be desired in an individual’s life, as people often face open or potential conflicts on many levels: Personal, social, national, etc. (Bar-Tal, 2015; Coleman, 2003, 2006; Kriesberg, 1993). It would also be an asset in training future peacebuilding activists, as they should aim at the creation of a safe space, helping to abandon rigid emotional attachments to people’s positions and achieve a state of psychological readiness (Paffenholz & Spurk, 2006).
Another critical aptitude for building peace is listening to the individuals or parties involved in the conflict (Baglione, 2008; Johansson, 2021). Moreover, the key is to understand the value of operating in teams, instead of taking singlehanded actions (Blum & Grangaard, 2018).
Previous Peace-Orientation Concepts
One of the early attempts, in the 1980s, to measure attitudes toward peace was the Ironemeter scale (Bardis, 1984). Though its reliability appears to be good enough, there has been no report on the items’ discrimination power. Moreover, all ten statements seem to prompt the same answer, e.g., everybody would say “Definitely yes” to “Human society does not need an occasional war,” “Peace leads to much greater progress than war does,” and “Historians should never glorify war.” Another concern relates to its all-positive wording, with no reversed (inverted) statements, which could influence respondents through the mechanism of social desirability bias.
The more advanced Peace Attitude Scale (PAS; 22 statements, N = 499) has been proven to have good psychometric properties (Broccoli et al., 2021). Factor analysis has shown that five domains appear to be relevant: Sociopolitical, personal well-being, ease with diversity, environmental attitude, and caring.
The correlations between PAS and the Big Five were analyzed by Cavarra et al. (2021) on an N = 121 sample. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that two Big Five personality traits, namely, conscientiousness and openness to experience, correlate with peace attitudes (Cavarra et al., 2021). This indicates, above all, that individuals who are more motivated to seek out new experiences tend to show stronger peace attitudes.
Method: Developing the Peace-Oriented Mindset (POM) Concept
There seems to be a void and a need to identify the specific mindset that drives individuals to build and prevent peace. The aim of this study, therefore, was to develop the concept of a Peace-Oriented Mindset and a scale for measuring it.
A mindset is seen as framing “The running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process” (Dweck, 2006, p. 215) and has a variety of definitions (see: French, 2016), e.g., delineated as “A predisposition to see the world in a particular way… a filter through which we look at the world” (Rhinesmith, 1992, p. 63). Herein, mindset is understood as a set of beliefs that shape how one makes sense of the world and oneself, influencing how one thinks, feels, and behaves in any given situation (Cherry, 2021; French, 2016)—which relates specifically, in this article, to conflict prevention and resolution.
Along these lines, a mindset has both cognitive (how one makes sense) and performative (how one behaves) dimensions. Similarly, these two dimensions are visible in Gary Klein’s definition: A mindset is a belief that orients the way we handle situations—the way we sort out what is going on and what we should do (Klein, 2016).
Considering the tall order of peacebuilding (i.e., addressing often seemingly insurmountable conflicts), there is a need for yet another dimension: Belief that difficult challenges are doable, a category defined as possibilitivity (Praszkier, 2019, 2021; Praszkier & Zabłocka, 2022).
In line with this framework, it is proposed that the POM be categorized as a three-dimensional construct:
Cognitive: Seeing the role of the socio-psychological context, being able to listen (at the same time as maintaining one’s own values) and understanding the significance of team working.
Performative: Proactively preventing dormant or lurking conflicts and building bridges between conflicted parties.
Doability conviction (possibilitivity): The capacity to anticipate and contain conflicts, being convinced that peace is possible, even if it seems intractable.
Along these lines, these three core dimensions were established for constructing the theoretical framework of the POM scale. A proposed breakdown into subcategories is shown in Table 1.
|Finding neutral common ground|
|Opposing groups should find some neutral fields of cooperation.|
|Listening to others while maintaining own values|
|Debating with others helps me see the world from a different perspective.|
|Listening to others’ viewpoints without losing sight of one’s own convictions is important for creating peace.|
|I can maintain my own convictions, even when they differ to the majority.|
|One shouldn’t judge people just by listening to them.a|
|Ideas for conflict resolution should be related to understanding the arguments of the parties involved.a|
|I’d rather not adopt another’s point of view after listening to them.|
|I think that the power of peacemaking lies within teamwork.|
|It is best to join a peacemaking organization instead of acting singlehandedly.|
|Group initiative is the most important in peacemaking.a|
|I try to keep peaceful any situation in which conflict could arise.|
|I can design an appropriate reconciliation process for a conflict situation.|
|Indications that a conflict is looming make me think of how to prevent its outbreak.|
|I often think about how to foster trust between conflicted groups.|
|I can think of innovative ways to build trust between individual parties of a conflict.|
|The ability to contain conflicts|
|It’s possible for me to find an appropriate solution to a conflict situation.|
|I feel capable when I see groups in conflict.|
|A sense of being able to anticipate conflicts|
|I think that one can predict a conflict before it breaks out.|
aStatement removed after validation.
Results: Statistical Analysis of the POM Questionnaire
The purpose of the following analyses is to describe the psychometric properties of the questionnaire and to analyze the differences between segments of the population.
The sample was representative of the Polish society (N = 1074):
560 women (52.1%) and 514 men (47.9%).
193 subjects (17.9%) in a leadership role, and 882 not (82.1%).
183 subjects (17.0%) involved in a social project, and 891 not (83.0%).
218 subjects (20.3%) who perceive themselves as innovators, and 856 who do not (79.7%).
|Primary or some high school||129||12|
|High school or equivalent||472||44|
|Bachelor’s degree or higher||473||44|
Psychometric Properties of the POM Questionnaire
The first step was to analyze the psychometric properties of the questionnaire. Reliability, measured by the internal consistency method, turned out to be low (Cronbach's α = 0.681). Analysis of the correlation indicated that four items did not fit the data set.
The Initial 18-Item Questionnaire
Table 4 presents the results for the initial version.
|Item||Scale mean if items deleted||Scale variance if items deleted||Item-total correlation||Cronbach's alpha if item deleted|
|1. Debating with others helps me see the world from a different perspective.||56.97||31.087||0.543||0.638|
|2. I think that one can predict a conflict before it breaks out.||57.57||34.249||0.132||0.686|
|3. Opposing groups should find some neutral fields of cooperation.||56.80||30.951||0.590||0.634|
|4. Listening to others’ viewpoints without losing sight of one’s own convictions is important for creating peace.||56.82||31.276||0.534||0.640|
|5. I think that the power of peacemaking lies within teamwork.||56.85||31.350||0.524||0.641|
|6. I feel capable when I see groups in conflict.||57.83||34.980||0.079||0.691|
|7. I can think of innovative ways to build trust between individual parties of a conflict.||57.38||32.047||0.421||0.652|
|8. I try to keep peaceful any situation in which conflict could arise.||56.99||31.466||0.516||0.642|
|9. Indications that a conflict is looming make me think of how to prevent its outbreak.||57.17||31.165||0.531||0.639|
|10. Group initiative is the most important in peacemaking.||57.94||37.057||–0.105||0.710|
|11. I can design an appropriate reconciliation process for a conflict situation.||57.54||32.349||0.373||0.657|
|12. I can maintain my own convictions, even when they differ to the majority.||56.88||32.034||0.440||0.650|
|13. One shouldn’t judge people just by listening to them.||58.14||39.427||–0.324||0.729|
|14. It’s possible for me to come up with an appropriate solution for a conflict situation.||57.67||33.544||0.244||0.671|
|15. It is best to join a peacemaking organization instead of acting singlehandedly.||56.95||32.101||0.420||0.652|
|16. Ideas for conflict resolution should be related to understanding the arguments of the parties involved.||57.92||36.509||–0.058||0.706|
|17. I often think about how to foster trust between conflicted groups.||57.40||31.711||0.430||0.650|
|18. I’d rather not adopt another’s point of view after listening to them.||57.98||37.081||–0.108||0.711|
As a result, items 10, 13, 16, and 18, with the lowest correlations, were removed.
The Final 14-Item Questionnaire
After removing the above four items, the reliability (as measured by the internal consistency method) increased significantly (Cronbach's α = 0.81). This allows the questionnaire to be used not only in scientific research, but also for individual diagnosis. Table 5 demonstrates the results for the final version.
|Item||Scale mean if items deleted||Scale variance if items deleted||Item-total correlation||Cronbach's alpha if item deleted|
|1. Debating with others helps me see the world from a different perspective.||45.94||33.937||0.572||0.787|
|2. I think that one can predict a conflict before it breaks out.||46.54||38.000||0.092||0.827|
|3. Opposing groups should find some neutral fields of cooperation.||45.77||33.791||0.620||0.784|
|4. Listening to others’ viewpoints without losing sight of one’s own convictions is important for creating peace.||45.79||34.052||0.573||0.788|
|5. I think that the power of peacemaking lies within teamwork.||45.82||34.210||0.553||0.789|
|6. I feel capable when I see groups in conflict.||46.80||38.355||0.073||0.827|
|7. I can think of innovative ways to build trust between individual parties of a conflict.||46.35||34.634||0.483||0.794|
|8. I try to keep peaceful any situation in which conflict could arise.||45.96||34.213||0.559||0.789|
|9. Indications that a conflict is looming make me think of how to prevent its outbreak.||46.15||33.791||0.585||0.786|
|10. I can design an appropriate reconciliation process for a conflict situation.||46.51||34.943||0.433||0.798|
|11. I can maintain my own convictions, even when they differ to the majority.||45.85||34.394||0.529||0.791|
|12. It’s possible for me to come up with an appropriate solution for a conflict situation.||46.64||36.856||0.236||0.813|
|13. It is best to join a peacemaking organization instead of acting singlehandedly.||45.93||35.083||0.439||0.797|
|14. I often think about how to foster trust between conflicted groups.||46.37||34.310||0.486||0.794|
In order to verify the validity of the questionnaire, a factor analysis using the principal components method with a varimax rotation was conducted. A factor analysis method was justified since the Kaiser–Mayer–Olkin test on the standardized data showed a KMO of 0.88. Additionally, the Bartlett’s test of sphericity was found to be statistically significant (χ2(91) = 4661.9, p < 0.001).
Most of the results turned out to be in line with our expectations. We obtained a three-factor solution explaining 56.83% of the variance. The factors are highly correlated, which is not surprising as they make up the global POM index (see Table 6).
|Opposing groups should find some neutral fields of cooperation.||0.786|
|Listening to others’ viewpoints without losing sight of one’s own convictions is important for creating peace.||0.768|
|I think that the power of peacemaking lies within teamwork.||0.743|
|Debating with others helps me see the world from a different perspective.||0.660|
|It is best to join a peacemaking organization instead of acting singlehandedly.||0.637|
|I can maintain my own convictions, even when they differ to the majority.||0.624|
|I try to keep peaceful any situation in which conflict could arise.||0.584||0.357|
|I can design an appropriate reconciliation process for a conflict situation.||0.778|
|I often think about how to foster trust between conflicted groups.||0.753|
|I can think of innovative ways to build trust between individual parties of a conflict.||0.674|
|Indications that a conflict is looming make me think of how to prevent its outbreak.||0.450||0.609|
|It’s possible for me to find an appropriate solution to a conflict situation.||0.793|
|I feel capable when I see groups in conflict.||0.784|
|I think that one can predict a conflict before it breaks out.||0.642|
As the sample (N = 1074) was representative, this would indicate a final three-component model: Cognitive, Performative, and Doability conviction.
For norming purposes, the collected data qualified for the construction of a POM index, as well as for separate scales.
Due to the good psychometric properties of the questionnaire, social norms were defined as outlined in Table 7 (converting raw results into stens; the results from Stens 1 to 3 should be interpreted as low, from 4 to 6 as average, and from 7 to 10 as high).
|Sten||Cognitive||Performative||Doability conviction||Total Peace-Oriented Mindset|
Social norms have been established for the entire Polish population, without division into normalization groups (Klein, 2015).
Creating a Societal Index
Convergence to the normal distribution was analyzed using the Kolmogorov–Smirnov test. Both skewness and kurtosis were documented to be close to zero, which allowed the use of parametric analyses (see Table 8).
|Total Peace-Oriented Mindset||3.55||0.45||0.317||0.22||0.81|
As the sample (N = 1074) was representative of the Polish society, the assembled data were eligible for constructing a societal index: The average POM level (societal index), measured as a total for all three sub-scales, was POMI = 3.55 (SD = 0.45).
Cross-Segment Comparative Analysis
Gender Comparative Analysis
To determine if women and men differ in their level of POM and its three sub-scales, an independent samples Student's t-test was performed. The analysis showed a significant difference in the cognitive, performative, and total levels, respectively: t(1042,72) = 4.48, p < 0.001; t(1072) = 3.13, p = 0.002; t(1072) = 3.8, p < 0.001.
In other words, women achieved higher POM scores than men (see Table 9). There were no significant differences on the doability conviction scale.
|Total Peace-Oriented Mindset||Female||560||3.602||0.447||3.8||< 0.001|
Leadership Comparative Analysis
To determine if people who are leaders differ from those who are not in terms of their level of POM and its three sub-scales, an independent samples Student's t-test was performed. The analysis showed a significant difference in all scales, respectively: t(1072) = 3.52, p < 0.001; t(1072) = 5.98, p < 0.001; t(249.31) = 3.64, p < 0.001; t(258.73) = 5.74, p < 0.001.
In other words, people who perceive themselves as leaders achieved higher scores than those who do not (see Table 10).
|Scale||Self-perception as leadera||N||M||SD||t||p|
|Doability conviction||Yes||192||3.248||0.805||3.64||< 0.001|
|Total Peace-Oriented Mindset||Yes||192||3.733||0.494||5.74||< 0.001|
aThe question prompt was, "Are you currently a leader, that is, a person who, for example, leads or leads in some field or in any project, even in something small?"
Comparative Analysis of Involvement in Social Activities
To determine if people who are involved in social activities differ from those who are not in terms of their level of POM and its three sub-scales, an independent samples Student's t-test was performed. The analysis showed a significant difference in all scales, respectively: t(1072) = 4.34, p < 0.001; t(249.53) = 6.42, p < 0.001; t(228.34) = 2.28, p = 0.024; t(238.28) = 5.78, p < 0.001.
In other words, those people involved in social activities achieved higher POM scores than those not involved (see Table 11)
|Total Peace-Oriented Mindset||Yes||183||3.744||0.508||5.78||< 0.001|
aThe question prompt was, "Are you currently involved in any social activities?"
Comparative Analysis of Considering Oneself an Innovator
To determine if people who consider themselves innovators differ from those who do not in terms of their level of POM and its three sub-scales, an independent samples Student's t-test was performed. The analysis showed a significant difference in the cognitive, performative, and total levels, respectively: t(314.1) = 4.41, p < 0.001; t(1072) = 7.87, p < 0.001; t(305.45) = 6.53, p < 0.001.
In other words, those people who consider themselves an innovator achieved higher scores than those who do not (see Table 12).
|Scale||Self-perception as innovatora||N||M||SD||t||p|
|Total Peace-Oriented Mindset||Yes||218||3.742||0.493||6.53||< 0.001|
aThe question prompt was, "Do you consider yourself an innovator, i.e., someone who, for example, introduces something new or better to some field?"
Discussion and Conclusions
Peace-orientation seems to be a desired value, both in one’s personal life and in the public sphere. It seems especially important when facing intractable or protracted conflicts.
The premise for the Peace-Oriented Mindset concept was presented as embedded in peace psychology and, more specifically, in understanding the significance of the context and milieu. In this vein, the presented study identified three dimensions of peacebuilding and conflict-preventing: Cognitive (understanding complexity, understanding others, etc.), performative (e.g., taking actions to build bridges or to prevent the outbreak of potential conflicts), and doability conviction (i.e., the belief that even if highly challenging, peace can be maintained or restored).
It was documented that the POM questionnaire (14 items) has good psychometric properties and can be used in further studies. Moreover, the research confirmed that the proposed POM questionnaire’s items can be broken down into the discussed three variables. The final questionnaire, with its good reliability, seems a fit for measuring one’s level of POM.
Interestingly, the cross-segment analysis revealed that women have a higher POM level than men; similarly, people who consider themselves leaders or innovators, as well as those involved in social activities, achieved higher POM scores than those who do not. These findings could be an opening for further research. They may be helpful, for example, when identifying the best peacebuilders among conflicted communities. Moreover, the entire POM concept and questionnaire could be helpful for verifying candidates for training in peacebuilding. Lastly, the POM questionnaire could be an indicator of the effectiveness of various peace-orientation programs.
As for future studies, it may be advantageous to see if the POM correlates with other personality traits. For example, a conjecture worth verifying is that peace-oriented individuals also have higher levels of empathy (e.g., Wakabayashi et al., 2006) and compassion (Pommier et al., 2020).