Alleviating Political Violence through Reducing Collective Tension: Impact Assessment Analyses of the Lebanon War

Davies, John L.; Alexander, Charles N.
March 2005
Journal of Social Behavior & Personality;2005, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p285
Academic Journal
This longitudinal social experiment replicates and extends an earlier study (Orme-Johnson, Alexander et al., 1988; 1990) in testing the proposal that political violence can be alleviated through reducing stress in the collective consciousness of a large population. It was predicted that group practice of meditation techniques in a series of seven assemblies held within a 2.25-year period would reduce collective tension and violence and enhance cooperative behavior among antagonistic parties in the Lebanon War. Daily event-data were derived from nine international and regional news sources. Levels of conflict, cooperation and casualties were scored by an experienced Lebanese coder blind to the hypotheses and techniques employed, using Rasler's (1981) 16-point scales. Box-Jenkins impact assessment analyses indicated that the assemblies had a highly significant impact in the predicted direction on all dependent variables, with an estimated mean 66% increase in cooperation and estimated reductions of 48% in conflict, 71% in war fatalities, and 68% in war injuries during the assemblies (p < .0000 1 for each variable). Analysis of an index combining the dependent variables indicated that each of the seven assemblies also had a separate positive impact on the war (p < .01). These results were robust across alternative models of the dependent series, and improvements could not be accounted for in terms of changes in temperature, holidays, weekends, or other forms of seasonality or trends in the dependent series, which were explicitly controlled for. Nor were results explicable in terms of "reverse causality" (assemblies being held in reaction to prior events in Lebanon), as experimental periods (assembly dates) were set months in advance and were statistically independent from prior levels of conflict.


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