Emotions and Emotion Regulation in Intractable Conflict

Intractable conflicts are amongst the most difficult problems of contemporary human society. Either due to their magnitude – over 3 mio people are estimated to have died in the Congo conflict – or due to their duration – the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is ongoing for 70 years. Intractable conflicts fuel mass violence and fundamentally harm the wellbeing of whole populations as well as hindering their potential development.

Unlike a natural disaster, intractable conflicts can’t exclusively be approached in a technical or logical way. They are less about real disagreements but rather about conflicting ideologies, differing values that cannot be compromised under any circumstances and leading to emotional reactions to conflict related events. Understanding these emotions – especially group-based emotions – are crucial in our efforts of contributing to lasting peace.

This PhD project explores how knowledge about emotional processes can help us to better understand the dynamics of intractable conflict and to promote peaceful solutions. This project in particular analyses how Palestinians in the West Bank emotionally experience different types of conflict related events and if there are influencing factors to these reactions by using mainly quantitative but also qualitative approches.

Supervisor: Laurent Goetschel

Co-Supervisor: Eran Halperin


Oliver Fink studied Psychology at the University of Freiburg, Germany. For several years he worked with a humanitarian NGO, overseas as well as in Switzerland, followed by a senior HR management position in the corporate sector. Together with his family he just returned from living in the Holy Land where he conducted the field research for his PhD at the University of Basel. The research project has been funded by a Scholarship of the We Contribute Foundation as well as the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft Basel.

His research interest is around social psychology in intractable conflict, emotions and radicalisation.


Portrait Oliver Fink

Oliver Fink
Bernouillstrasse 14-16
4051 Basel