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According to Miller, conflict is contemplates “The interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other party as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals” (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 159). At the center of FCSA is a subsystem, the YESS school, and inside is a boiling conflict between one employee and an entire staff (Donahue, 2024). Our approach to this lesson will endeavor to investigate further the conflict through the fundamental understanding of how the social brain influences decision-making. We will examine conflict through the lens of systems theorists, which tend to approach investigating conflict through evidence of “cycles of activities that can escalate and de-escalate,” particularly “prevalent for highly interdependent parties” (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 173).

The Social Brain and its Relatedness to Conflict and Decision-Making

Miller delineates conflict management by defining conflict and then discussing its various phases and levels within an organization. “Conflict can be both destructive and productive” (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 158) highlighting the dual nature of conflict in organizational settings. Our professor’s scholarship helps us form a baseline for understanding the construct of decision-making. Lamb articulates decision-making plainly: “We make decisions” (Lamb, 2024c).

The “social brain” concept refers to the intricate network within our brain that governs how we interact with others, how we perceive their intentions, emotions, and actions, and how these perceptions influence our behavior in social contexts. In organizational communication, particularly in addressing conflict and decision-making, the social brain plays a pivotal role by mediating our emotional and rational responses to the challenges we face with others in the workplace. Lamb articulates the neurocognitive processes surrounding conflict and decision-making by highlighting the neuroanatomical design that originates within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. “When we experience high levels of stress or fear, our orbital medial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC) becomes inhibited by the amygdala, making us have a difficult time being rational, logical, and in control of our emotions” (Lamb, 2024b).

This underscores the impact of our neurological responses on our ability to communicate effectively, navigate conflicts, and make decisions, emphasizing that these processes are not solely cognitive but are deeply influenced by the emotional and social aspects of our neurological functioning. Learning also must be factored into the neuroanatomical design considering inhibition of the orbital medial prefrontal cortex by the amygdala, which inherently encodes our experiences and responses.

In other words, as stated by our professor, the OMPFC and amygdala are “shaped by our experiences” (Lamb, 2024b). Conclusively, if one has negative experiences related to navigating conflict interactions, human neuroanatomical architecture and function naturally seem to inhibit or act to protect from unpleasant outcomes, thereby potentially impeding or inhibiting promotive conflict management responses.

This duality aligns with Manata’s (2019) examination of relationship conflict in decision-making groups. Both underline the complexity of conflict, emphasizing it as an emotionally charged, psychological process. Each could be explained through our inherent neuroanatomical design, and all can be mediated through our approach to conflict interactions. The interconnectedness and dynamic nature of neurological responses to conflict could explain the effects of the conflict at the YESS school. When the interdependent components evolved to have “contradictory ideas,” incompatible goals were revealed, which Miller highlights as central to conflict. The antecedents are present: the parties are interdependent, they interact, and their interactions are incompatible (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 159).

Finally, we can see evidence of incompatibility of goals through the expression or interactions that are evidenced through communication between the component parties. Hostile exchanges, together with overly charged emotional responses and responses outside the normative bounds of the organization’s culture, are all evidentiary. While Manata outlines disparities of the racial variety within conflict interactions, Lamb offers hope and meaningful solutions that can promote effective conflict management by reframing conflict interactions away from the give-and-take standard and more toward interactive models such as those offered through feminist perspectives.

As we continue to scaffold conflict and its architecture, it is right to reflect on the interactions and perspectives outlined by Manata, Miller, and Lamb and decisively conclude that the social brain impacts conflict at the neurocognitive level. Through advances in education, dynamic organizations can grow to understand the inherent neurocognitive processes that act as inhibitors to promotive conflict management techniques.

Still, Lamb offers an extremely advantageous perspective that draws down the natural and inherent give-and-take relationship inherent to conflict. Lisann Goodin-Burton is the manager of a highly technical, male-dominated staff, through which she appears to successfully manage conflict through feminist approaches, which reveal great hope when working against the inherent neurocognitive processes at work that naturally impede the conflict management process (Lamb, 2024a).

While this area is of extreme interest, sadly, we have a limitation on the analysis we can inject within this section of our required work. Drawing upon Manata’s (2019) insights, we are reminded of the delicate balance within decision-making groups, where racial diversity and the ensuing relationship conflicts can significantly sway the outcomes. Within these findings, the theory of the social brain finds practical application, underscoring the indelible link between our neurocognitive functions and how conflict is managed through communication within the organization.

It seems rational to advance the feminist approach, which works against the natural give-and-take phenomenon inherent to conflict but works against the inhibiting factors inherent to our neuroanatomical design. Indeed, feminist approaches could offer a brighter path forward when considering managing conflict at the organizational level.

These approaches seem to enhance the quality of communication while at the same time reinforcing organizational normative responses. Feminist approaches enhance supportive and ethical environments and work against “misperceptions about peoples’ values, motivations, and even another person’s honesty during conflict” (Lamb, 2024d). Goodin-Burton works against the naturally inhibiting functions of our neurocognitive responses and advances high-quality relationships and communication to foster collaborative environments that promote successful conflict management techniques.

Approach to Investigating the Social Brain During Conflict Interactions

Considering the conflict at the YESS subsystem, one helpful approach when understanding or measuring the impact of neurocognitive responses would be quantitively test approaches to communicating differences in goals between the parties, one representing the organization and another seen more as a subordinate to the organization. This could be achieved through a test-retest measure. Each party’s responses could be measured when framing the issues through male-centric, give-and-take approaches, then contrasting that measurement through the polar, feminine perspectives.

In observation, the male-centric give-and-take demands are present: one party gives corrective guidance through a corrective action plan, which the other party takes, then formulates a subjective decision as to whether the plan adversely impacts them. It seems much more intuitive to stand from the feminist lens and collaborate with the offending party to develop a mutually agreeable course of action. The entire interaction could be measured from a test-retest standpoint and understood more nuancedly. This approach would consider the inherent neurocognitive responses that inhibit the cycle and work against those inherent processes from the start. Again, Goodin-Burton offers a practitioner’s approach, which underscores this linkage.

Communication Competence and Emotional Intelligence

In communication competence, Miller asserts the significance of recognizing and adapting to conflict styles. “Individuals use a variety of strategies that differ in terms of the attention given to self and others in the conflict” (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 169), considering the importance of communication competence in managing emotional tensions within diverse groups. This notion is reinforced through Manata’s study, which reveals that diverse groups can outperform homogenous ones by integrating various perspectives; it seems highly logical to infer that emotional intelligence (EQ) is central to managing racially diverse groups.

We understand that personal factors (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 169), relational factors (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 170), and cultural factors (Miller & Barbour, 2020, pp. 171–180) all contribute to the dynamics of conflict interactions. Of usefulness to this budding scholar is the notion that generational differences can also shape how one is influenced by diversity and conflict response mechanisms (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 170). Manta generally confers the logic that heightened emotional tensions could negatively impact group decision-making outcomes, implying that a higher degree of EQ could substantially interrupt adverse outcomes (Manata, 2021).

Implications for Organizational Communication

The insights from Miller, Manata, and Lamb underscore the need for a holistic approach to organizational communication that incorporates emotional intelligence and communication competence. Miller suggests, “Through communication, organizational members create and work through conflicts” (Miller & Barbour, 2020, p. 158), emphasizing communication’s central role in conflict management. Manata’s research further implies that effectively managing the emotional dimensions within diverse groups can lead to more innovative and inclusive decision-making practices (Manata, 2021, p. 2).


This exploration of the social brain’s influence on organizational conflict and decision-making, supported by Miller’s theoretical insights and Manata’s empirical evidence, highlights the importance of considering emotional and psychological dimensions when approaching communication-related to the conflict at the organizational level. There seems to be a definitive neurological connection that is inherent to inhibiting successful conflict interactions. Thus, it is appropriate to study the neuroanatomical linkage comprehensively. To this degree, we are not separate from our emotional features, and abstraction from emotional processes seems to be highly unlikely. This impacts communication through the inhibiting features of the overarching architecture and biochemical responses. It does impact teams and our ability to solve problems, yet communication competence and models that train emotional intelligence could offer a path forward.

Feminist perspectives are one brightly lit path that was illuminated as a dominate approach to successful management of teams as deployed by Goodin-Burton within her environment. The diversity of expertise under her leadership offers credence to her approach: she manages a male dominate workforce successfully, possessing no technical knowledge. She appears to approach her interactions with high emotional intelligence and generally reflects the outcomes as positive. Research in the arena of the social brain construct should consider approaches that naturally work against our neuroanatomical design and biochemical responses enabled through the PFC. Understanding the benefit of the approach could be studied through empirical quantitative means, thereby showcasing a true cause-and-effect correlation.

In summation, the ecosphere surrounding conflict seems highly constitutive. Conflict, once entrenched, must be hard to reverse. Accordingly, advancing approaches that work to manage the conflict are more productive than those that seek to eliminate it. Conflict and the varying degrees of individual differences will always be present within organizational environments. Successful organizations will mediate its presence through proactive means that aim to understand the human neurocognitive dynamics in play.


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