Jonathan Cohen (Florida) has published “A Genesis of Conflict: The Zero-Sum Mindset” in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, available here. The abstract:

Parties in conflict often operate under the assumption that for one party to win, the other party must lose. This concept, known as the “zero-sum mindset,” can lead to undesirable results, both because it can make disputes harder to resolve and because people holding such beliefs are more likely to get into conflicts to begin with. Over the past several decades, legal educators specializing in dispute resolution have worked hard to challenge that mindset. This task is not simple, for framing conflict in zero-sum terms has very deep cultural roots tracing back at least to the Biblical stories in Genesis. This article works in three stages. First, I present a brief history of the zero-sum mindset and efforts to challenge it in American legal dispute resolution discourse. Second, I examine several stories from Genesis in which the zero-sum mindset leads to conflict. Third, I conclude with reflections on the importance of raising awareness of the zero-sum mindset as a step toward both preventing conflicts and more effectively resolving those that arise.

Jennifer Reynolds is an Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon Law and the Faculty Director of the ADR Center. Teaching civil procedure, conflicts of law, negotiation, and mediation, her research interests include dispute systems design, problem-solving in multiparty scenarios, judicial attitudes toward ADR, and cultural influences and implications of alternative processes. She is also a contributor to ADR Prof Blog.