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Veils and Cloaks of Ignorance: Under-used Tools for Conflict Resolution Based on: Anderson, Swanson & Imperati, 30 Ohio State Journal on Dispute (2014)


In A Theory of Justice (1971), John Rawls introduced the concept of a veil of ignorance as a device for encouraging the fair and unbiased judgments required for decision-makers. Rawls asked us to assume that decision-makers would be operating in an original position of equality, behind a veil of ignorance as to their actual positions in life.


Philosophical analysis and psychological research point to the importance of fairness in conflict and to the appropriateness of excluding potentially biasing information as a means to fairness. Potentially biasing information can be excluded by:


1) Thin Veils consist of instructions to disregard information that is known and already in consciousness.

2) Thick Veils make it more difficult for information that is known but not in consciousness to be brought to consciousness.

3) Cloaks withhold information that is not yet known.


Opportunities to apply cloaks and veils of ignorance arise in fact conflicts, value conflicts, and interest conflicts. They reduce transparency, and transparency of facts, values, and interests is an acknowledged goal of mediation. They must be used with care and the Informed Consent of the participants should be obtained in advance.

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