In the field of conflict resolution, especially in the international and political contexts, there have been several theories that have formed the dominant and systematic response to mediating intense disputes between diametrically opposed parties. Most of these psychological and logical approaches have involved interest-based solutions that consider resources and the interests (usually financial, political, and strategic) but that ignore subtle but equally important issues such as identity and diversity.

Interactive conflict resolution is a unique solution to problems such as these that is underused and underexplored. Because it involves mediation by a trained social scientist who is, by nature of the profession, well-situated to anticipate the needs of identity groups and their diverse societal interests and ideologies, this potential mediation strategy address the problem holistically rather than in a more narrow, interest-based manner, thus might produce more drastic, sustainable, and hopefully positive, lasting outcomes. This literature review will address some of the key points of contention within the debate about interactive conflict resolution theory, including its main goals, its outcomes, and its current lack of adoption by mediation strategists, despite a generally favorable perception among major conflict resolution theorists.

Fisher is one of the most notable scholars who provided a means for reopening the case for interactive conflict resolution and is one of the leading authorities on the topic with one book on the topic and several articles across disciplines that note the value of this form of conflict resolution. As Fisher (1993) defines it, “Interactive conflict resolution involves small-group, problem-solving discussions between unofficial representatives of parties engaged in destructive conflict, facilitated by a third party of social scientist practitioners” (p. 123). While Fisher (1993) does note that there are several benefits to using interactive conflict resolution as a type of guided mediation between disputing parties, there are several hurdles for proponents of this mediation technique to leap over, including a lack of trained social scientists who would be qualified to mediate in this manner, which stems in part from a lack of funding of further research and development into this practice. Fisher (1993) makes the suggestion that the problems of inadequate training and funding complicate the process of making this a legitimate standard for conflict resolution, especially in the international context. It is also suggested that only through self-started efforts to verify interactive conflict resolution that are independent of outside funding that this form of mediation can gain wider acceptance and thereby receive more funding and thus trained personnel. Fisher (1993) sees the challenges ahead for the field and makes the suggestion that “to advance the field of ICR, scholar/practitioners should take initiatives in research and practice, funding, institutionalization, and professionalization; each of these will require some reorientation and a high degree of collaboration” (p.  135). Fisher (1993) is confident that this type of mediation has been long overlooked and is of significant value, stating that having problem-solving discussions guided by social scientists “increased awareness and attitude change through new realizations about the sources and nature of the conflict” (p. 123) but ultimately feels as though this promising form of mediation is being overlooked.