How can we expand our consciousness and sense of identity in the face of emotionally charged conflicts? The Overview Effect Project is exploring how the experience of astronauts can inform our understanding of how to combat what Prof Daniel L. Shapiro calls the Tribes Effect – a divisive, myopic mindset that often sets in during conflict.
The research team is examining what Harvard colleague Frank White calls the Overview Effect, a shift in consciousness that astronauts commonly experience upon seeing our floating blue planet from afar. While the Tribes Effect can impede conflict resolution and narrow one’s sense of identity, the Overview Effect can expand one’s sense of identity and open new opportunities for resolution. In Shapiro’s book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable, he describes the Tribes Effect and presents a methodology called Relational Identity Theory, which is being drawn upon in this study. The project is examining how the Overview Effect and associated methods can transform perceptions of identity, thereby improving the frequency and quality of conflict resolution and unlocking new avenues for negotiating the nonnegotiable. Research activities include theory building, curriculum development, hands-on conflict resolution projects, and astronaut participation. Core Team: Bruce Shackleton (INP lead), Frank White, Charles E. Smith, and Dan Shapiro.