Morton Deutsch is considered a founder of the study of conflict resolution. His research, spanning over five decades, has focused on cooperation and competition, social conformity, intergroup relations, and justice. He is the founder of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution and is emeritus E.L. Thorndike professor of psychology at Columbia University.
After his military service in WWII, Deutsch studied with Kurt Lewin at the Research Center for Group Dynamics. His dissertation research (sparked by his interest in how the United Nations could work together cooperatively for peace) showed that cooperative groups work best, fostering trusting, friendly relationships among the members. Competitive groups performed tasks more poorly, were mistrustful, and were harmful to the efforts of the group members.
Deutsch is also a psychoanalytic therapist. His clinical observations revealed that people often follow destructive patterns in their relationships, much like those he found in his research on groups. His research showed ways in which couples can break their stalemates and improve their relationships.
In addition, Deutsch has had a significant impact on teaching children how to resolve their conflicts and work cooperatively. His influential 1993 paper, “Educating for a Peaceful World,” has provided a blueprint for educators all over the world to create such programs for their students.
Deutsch is the epitome of the ideal applied social psychologist, and his impact on the field of social psychology is impressive. His prolific research has had significant impact on how we think about conflict resolution, psychological therapy, intergroup relations, and justice.
See Deutsch’s award address presented at the 2007 APS Annual Convention in Washington.