Effect of mental construals on cooperative and competitive conflict management styles

Kanchan Mukherjee (Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India and Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur, India)
Divya Upadhyay (Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 8 April 2019



This paper aims to explore the psychological antecedents and processes that lead to competitive or cooperative attitudes in conflict management using the lens of construal level theory (CLT). CLT suggests that adopting a distal versus proximal psychological perspective changes the way people think and behave. This research explores the systematic effect of these abstract versus concrete mental construals on preferred conflict management styles.


First, theoretically grounded hypotheses linking different mental construals to cooperative and competitive conflict management styles were formulated. Subsequently, four empirical studies were conducted to test the hypotheses.


The studies provide support to the hypotheses showing that high construal abstract thinking is linked to preference for cooperation while low construal thinking is linked to preference for competition. Further, two different psychological processes mediate participants’ preferences for cooperative and competitive conflict management styles, the former mediated by perspective taking and empathic concern and the latter by impulsivity and aggression.

Research limitations/implications

The research measures conflict management styles rather than actual behavior. Also, focus is on trait mental construals rather than priming of high or low construal thinking.

Practical implications

Deeper understanding of the psychology of cooperative and competitive conflict management styles can help parties attain better outcomes and can potentially contribute to training and talent development by educating conflict management practitioners.

Social implications

The findings of this research can potentially inform effective interventions aimed at reducing intergroup conflicts.


Mental construals and related psychological processes are linked to conflict management styles for the first time.



Mukherjee, K. and Upadhyay, D. (2019), "Effect of mental construals on cooperative and competitive conflict management styles", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 202-226. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-11-2017-0136

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