After 30 years of concerted multinational effort to address ethnopolitical conflicts, we still have very little idea about what types of conflict resolution interventions work, which don't, and for whom. Emile Bruneau is a social cognitive neuroscientist at MIT researching the neural basis of intergroup conflict, and the psychological and cognitive consequences of conflict resolution efforts.
Emile Bruneau received his Ph.D. in neuroscience and now conducts his research at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT. Prior to this, he was a high school and elementary school teacher, and had extensive experience living and travelling abroad. These travels brought him to a number of conflict regions, including South Africa during the fall of Apartheid and the unfolding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Sri Lanka during a major Tamil Tiger attack. The immediate inspiration for his current research came after volunteering at a conflict resolution camp in Ireland during “The Troubles.” While the camp boasted notable successes in the form of intergroup friendships, it was also characterized by a colossal failure when a fight broke out at the end of the camp, resulting in a massive partisan brawl. Emile was left wondering what affect this program, and programs like it, actually have on partisan attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. These questions, examined through the lenses both of neuroscience and education, have inspired his current research program at MIT.