Conflict management uses many different tools, but perhaps the most readily observable is the effort of former adversaries to come together and “undo” the damage to their relationship following open conflict. In humans, this can be accomplished through verbal apology and compensatory gifts, and in animals through the well-studied process of reconciliation, that is, postconflict friendly interaction between former opponents. This process allows parties who recently engaged in hostilities to resume cooperation on which survival may depend. It is therefore assumed that reconciliation is most typical of cooperative, or valuable, relationships.
Cords and Aureli explore this variable in Chapter 9 and add to the current models by proposing two further components of social relationships— security and compatibility—as factors affecting the chance that relationship repair will take place. They propose various ways to measure these three relationship variables. The independent evaluation of each variable is the first step toward a complete definition and subsequent testing of this three-way model.
In Box 9.1, Silk proposes what she sees as an alternative view of the relationship repair function of reconciliation. She suggests that the effect of post-conflict reunions may be short lasting only, namely, a signaling of the ceasing of hostilities. Future work on short-term versus long-term effects may resolve the issue raised or perhaps indicate that both are at work because long-term effects commonly depend on an accumulation of short-term ones. The concept of social relationship assumes such an accumulation.