Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Mechanism of Impact

Upregulative Offloading

Upregulative offloading is the proposition that while conflict dynamics and their associated stress can induce cognitive fatigue that contributes to less active self-regulation and a subsequent increase in an individual’s willingness to engage in disorderly and/or criminal conduct, the resolution of such conflicts can alleviate conflict-related stress and minimize conflict-induced cognitive fatigue, resulting in the upregulation of self- monitoring and an egosyntonic re-insulation from baser criminal inclinations or incident susceptibility.

The conflict-induction aspect of this confli- cogni-fatigo relief hypothesis is a modification of recent experimental psychology research that is tangentially connected with and suggestively supportive of the Broken Windows framework. In that work, researchers note that contexts–such as conflicts–that produce cognitive fatigue frustrate self- regulationandcontributetowarderroneous, often negative interpretations that together increase the probability of engaging in aggressive, criminal, or other ‘rule-breaking’ behaviors.420 By helping to resolve conflicts and minimize their associated cognitive stressors, service providers encourage greater self-regulation and fewer negative misinterpretations of interactional cues. This work, then, discourages exacerbated or willful engagement of disorderly or criminal conduct.

Providers interested in exploring this proposed mechanism may want to consider integrating into client intake and follow-up surveys questions targeting conflict-related stress levels, the results from which could be compared to the self-reported presence of those same clients’ preceding and subsequent criminal activities.


420. Specifically, “theories of self-regulation suggest that processing difficulty [can] fatigue cognitive resources necessary for self-regulation, which may lead to unregulated rule-breaking behavior. Furthermore, the experience of processing difficulty, or ‘disfluency,’ may also be used as a metacognitive cue in judgment, with disfluency activating effortful thinking and generally being interpreted in some negative way through people’s naïve theories about its meaning. Effortful thinking and regulation of negative thoughts and feelings may further fatigue the capacity to execute self-regulated behavior” (Kotabe, H.P., Kardan, O., Berman, M.G., 2016; internal citations omitted).