Meaning of Conflict and Cooperation in Psychology

According to sociologists, collaboration occurs when two or more people coordinate their actions to achieve a common goal. On the other hand, there is conflict when one party tries to stop the progress of another. Social scientists use the term "social processes" to describe the persistent changes that occur inside a society over time. Cooperation and conflict are the two most common or reliable social processes in any culture. Since they occur within a society, these communications qualify as social interactions.

What are Conflict and Cooperation?

Everyday words like "conflict" and "cooperation" are laden with descriptive meanings and value judgments. Cooperation is seen as beneficial, productive, and laudable and should be praised, while conflict is seen as dreadful, futile, or bad and must be "settled." In this chapter, we need to dissociate ourselves from these normative connotations because they are embedded in ordinary language. For this reason, neither conflict nor cooperation is inherently undesirable. Relationships and interactions are only ever described using these terms when doing so involves consideration of interests or aims on the one hand and behavior on the other.

Combinations of Interests and Activity

A common feature of conflict is when the parties' interests and priorities are at odds with one another. This indicates that if one side succeeds in its objectives, the other will be unable to achieve theirs when no two sets of goals or interests are inherently incompatible. Instead, they can be unrelated (achieving A's goals does not affect achieving B's goals) or complementary (achieving A's goals makes it more likely that B's goals will be met). They do not have to fight or work together if they do not have anything in common.

Given that both conflict and cooperation may be described in terms of two criteria (goals and interests and active pursuit), there are many ways in which these two concepts can coexist. When goals and interests are incompatible or synergetic. Whenever one is dependent upon the opinions of those concerned. In this context, one's interests and aims are synonymous, and it is taken for granted that one knows what they are. This presumption might be challenged, and even if it were not, it is still being determined if individuals can determine whether two things are incompatible or complementary, both their own and other people's objectives and concerns.

To those who are unaware

  • If they are unaware of (or cannot fathom) the motivations,

  • Is unable to determine whether the two are complementary. However, there is no assurance that their thoughts are correct, even if they are.

  • In which both parties perceive each other's points of view as valid, If A's goals conflict with those of B, the latter may achieve respective goals complementary to those of A. This is problematic if actors engage in strategic behavior that involves concealing their aims.

The Inevitability of Conflict and Cooperation

There are several reasons why conflict is unavoidable. All distributive conflicts may be traced back to one thing: scarcity. Because of this scarcity, the age-old question of "who gets what, when, and how?" posed by Laswell arises. Whether or not the things we consider are material is beside the point. Tangible goods like food, housing, clothing, books, and televisions and intangible goods like access to medical care, education, and transportation can be in short supply.

Disagreements arise when individuals and groups have divergent views on what is good for society and what is essential. Again, both tangible and intangible things may be at stake here. Several people advocate for fostering airports, roads, trains, and ports; some support these forms of physical infrastructure, while others do not. Separation of church and state is a contentious issue, with some supporters and opponents wanting it. Many people support either a monarchy or a republic. Here, disagreements arise not because resources are limited but because a society can adopt only one of the available options. Doing so would prevent the other options from becoming a reality.

That individuals and organizations have conflicting priorities regarding societal needs is irrelevant; what is important is that such priorities be incompatible. Even when there is consensus on what individuals would like to see realized, conflicts are inevitable due to scarcity and the incompatibility of individual desires with those of society. Some ideas are nearly universally supported in every culture, though their specifics vary over time and place. These include access to high-quality medical care and education in modern, developed Western nations, an effective legal system, low or no structural unemployment rates, and pristine environmental conditions.

Relations between and Dynamics of Conflict and Cooperation

There are a wide variety of political relationships, both antagonistic and cooperative. Either a short or a long period may be associated with them. Depending on the nature of the connections, they may affect a small group of people or a huge one. They range in strength from mild to extremely intense. Protracted confrontations that draw large crowds and stir deep emotions are crucial to any functioning democratic system. When one conflict becomes so pervasive in a system, it can stifle the growth of others, either by preventing them from growing at all or by "molding" them into the shape of the dominant conflict.

For the most part, parties to a conflict do not start with equal power. Some are more potent than others, and they use it to their advantage to find a way to solve the problem. For the most part, that is the end of the story, and the "losers" focus on pursuing other goals and the issues of daily living, which are, in the main, unrelated to politics. It is not always game over for the underdog, even if they lose the battle or assume they will. Those who care enough about their cause will work to increase their odds of victory.


In contrast to conflict, when several individuals deliberately seek to destroy one another's efforts, cooperation occurs when many people work to achieve a common goal. According to sociologists, the key distinction between cooperative and conflict situations is whether the parties involved work with or against one another.