The Psychology of Conflict and Combat

The Psychology of Conflict and Combat

The Psychology of Conflict and Combat

The Psychology of Conflict and Combat


Shalit draws on the research he conducted as field psychologist in the Israeli military to offer an original behavioral model of combat that accounts for the fighting potential of an individual or group. His model is based on the appraisal process that the individual undertakes in combat conditions to assess a situation, whether it concerns him or not and regardless of his role. It is through this process that the individual makes a judgment, taking into consideration his past experience, knowledge, and expectations, that in turn leads to a course of action.


The glow of the lights of Haifa and Mount Carmel were just fading over the horizon. The night was as dark as a moonless cloudy night at sea can be, and the muffled sounds of the MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) engines were hardly sufficient to break the monotony of the swooshing sounds of waves. The figures on the dark deck were lost--their outlines diffusing in the grayness--and only the larger dark shadow of the rubber boat gave some outline that the eye could fasten to and trace with some comforting assurance.

I was a psychologist--just released on the world from the university and standing now in the lee of the bridge, feeling rather confused and exhilarated. I was doing my national service as a psychologist in the Israeli Navy, and had convinced the various levels of command (thus, incidentally, myself also) that one cannot possibly serve as a psychologist in the military without sharing the world of experience of those one is supposed to work with. So here I was, on board one of three MTBs going north on an active mission. We were supposed to land commando troops and their boats, wait while they carried out their tasks, and then collect them and return to base.

If all went well, this would be a simple (if tense) operation, involving--on my part--hours of waiting in a boat that was tossed about just a few meters west of the enemy shore. If all did not go well . . .

It was curious--and quite a bit unsetting--to realize how much I really wanted things to happen--in fact, to go wrong. Not because I wanted to see any of my friends in danger, not because I had any feelings or desire to hurt the enemy, but simply so as to experience the tension of action--the thrill of the challenge and danger. This bears no relation to not being afraid, for I

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