It was just over 12 years ago that we first sat down together to talk about psychological traps. In the relative calm of late afternoons, feet draped casually over the seedy furnishings of the Tufts psychology department, we entertained each other with personal anecdotes about old cars, times spent lost on hold, and the Shakespearean concerns of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Lord and Lady Macbeth, and other notables. Eventually, informed by our many illustrations and the excitement that their repeated telling engendered in the two of us, we began to move more formally into trap analysis. How do you know a trap when you see one? What are the shared characteristics of all psychological traps, regardless of origin, scope, or complexity? What are the key conceptual elements in any effort to differentiate among the traps of the world? What factors make us more or less apt to fall prey to entrapment? These were some of the questions that arose during these initial meetings. A series of weekly meetings stretched over the ensuing years — interrupted temporarily by various exigencies — and led eventually to a research program that grew to involve a number of students and faculty colleagues. At the time, of course, we did not regard our work as a "research program"; rather, even as our experiments proceeded to answer two burning questions at a time, they managed to raise three or four new issues that we had not anticipated before.
Brockner, Joel, and J. Rubin. Entrapment in escalating conflicts: A social psychological analysis.. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag, 1985.
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