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Topics: Negotiation, Best alternative to a negotiated agreement, Team Pages: 25 (6263 words) Published: November 2, 2014
The Agreement Bias in Negotiation: Teams Facilitate Impasse

Taya R. Cohen (Northwestern University)
Geoffrey J. Leonardelli (University of Toronto)
Leigh L. Thompson (Northwestern University)

Paper Presented at the
23rd Annual International Association of Conflict Management Conference Boston, Massachusetts
June 24 – 27, 2010

Abstract:
This research represents the first empirical investigation of the agreement bias in negotiation. The agreement bias is a negotiation trap characterized by settling for terms that are worse than one’s alternatives. Results from two experiments indicated that teams reduce the agreement bias by facilitating impasse in negotiations with a negative bargaining zone. Study 1 found that the addition of a single teammate was sufficient for generating discontinuity between teams and solos in their ability to avoid the agreement bias. Study 2 provided support for two proposed explanations for the agreement bias. Consistent with the faulty-judgment explanation, the role that required the most information processing benefited the most from the addition of a teammate. Consistent with the concern-with-being-liked explanation, solos were perceived as exhibiting more agreeable behavior than teams, and agreeable behavior was associated with a greater likelihood of agreement.

AGREEMENT BIAS

1

The Agreement Bias in Negotiation: Teams Facilitate Impasse

Abstract
This research represents the first empirical investigation of the agreement bias in negotiation. The agreement bias is a negotiation trap characterized by settling for terms that are worse than one’s alternatives. Results from two experiments indicated that teams reduce the agreement bias by facilitating impasse in negotiations with a negative bargaining zone. Study 1 found that the addition of a single teammate was sufficient for generating discontinuity between teams and solos in their ability to avoid the agreement bias. Study 2 provided support for two proposed explanations for the agreement bias. Consistent with the faulty-judgment explanation, the role that required the most information processing benefited the most from the addition of a teammate. Consistent with the concern-with-being-liked explanation, solos were perceived as exhibiting more agreeable behavior than teams, and agreeable behavior was associated with a greater likelihood of agreement.

Keywords: agreement bias; negotiation; impasse; teams; groups; interindividualintergroup discontinuity

AGREEMENT BIAS

2

The Agreement Bias in Negotiation: Teams Facilitate Impasse

“The art of leadership is not saying Yes, it’s saying No.” Tony Blair (cited in Ury, 2007, p. 4)

Effective negotiation requires understanding not only how to “get to yes” but also how and when to say no. However, since the publication of Fisher and Ury’s (1981) seminal negotiation book, Getting to Yes, negotiation research has focused almost exclusively on helping people reach agreements, whereas little, if any, research has investigated factors that help parties reach impasses when a negative bargaining zone exists (i.e., when there is no zone of possible agreement). When negotiation impasses are discussed, they are usually framed as problems (e.g., O'Connor & Arnold, 2001) that can potentially be solved by correcting biases (e.g., Babcock & Loewenstein, 1997) or bargaining more rationally (e.g., Roth, 1995). However, it is not always desirable or advantageous to reach a deal in negotiation. If a negotiator has better alternatives elsewhere then it would be foolish for him or her to ignore those attractive alternatives in favor of a less desirable settlement.

The failure to impasse when there is a negative bargaining zone is called the agreement bias (Thompson, 2009). The agreement bias is a negotiation trap characterized by settling for terms that are worse than one’s alternatives. Although negotiation textbooks (e.g., Thompson, 2009) typically discuss the pitfalls of the...

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