Over a few decades, psychologists have studied various factors affecting people's attitudes to war. Today, most research of this type focuses in one of two areas: attitudes to specific military actions affecting the individual personally – such as the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others – and militarism as an outlook causing people to endorse their country's military intervention in other countries.
According to Gulevich and Nevruyev, there is a third potential area of research, namely people's perception of war as a phenomenon regardless of who is fighting, or, more broadly, their acceptance of physical aggression against opponents as a valid behavioural strategy. In their study, Gulevich and Nevruyev examined the personalities of people who tend to endorse violence, focusing in particular on characteristics such as resilience and alienation.
Resilience reflects one's beliefs about themselves, the outside world and how they relate to it. People who are resilient usually have a keen interest in the world around them, feel in control of their lives, accept risks and take responsibility for what happens to them; they tend to take action in a crisis and successfully cope with stress.
The lower a person's resilience, the greater their alienation, expressed as a perceived lack of meaning in life and a tendency towards social isolation. According to research, people experiencing high levels of alienation tend to be more aggressive and negative towards those whom they see as different and dangerous. Gulevich and Nevruyev assumed that the same pattern could apply to people's attitudes to war.
Their findings confirm that low resilience is associated with high levels of alienation – in other words, people who are oblivious to the world around them, avoid risk and lack confidence in themselves tend to feel alienated, which can lead to approval of military action.
Studies have identified three main categories of alienation, i.e. self-alienation, associated with a lack of meaning in life, a renunciation of individuality and personal freedom; alienation from personal relationships, when other people are avoided and perceived as hypocritical and manipulative; and alienation from society fueled by a sense of prevailing injustice, one's dependence on the state and inability to change things for the better.
Gulevich and Nevruyev studied each form of alienation and how it affects one's attitude to war, and found that the first two types – self-alienation and alienation from personal relationships – often lead to endorsement of war as a solution to international conflicts, while the third type – alienation from society – is not normally associated with acceptance of military action.
According to the researchers, alienation from society means that a person is less likely to share popular values; thus, alienated people in militarist societies are likely to reject war, while those in pacifist societies tend to accept it, and in countries with conflicting norms and attitudes no association can be observed between alienation from society and attitude to war.