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Let’s Make a Deal: The Psychological Science Underlying Compromise and Negotiation

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Tense negotiations in Congress over the “fiscal cliff” have focused public attention on the art of compromise — or lack thereof. From deciding who washes the dishes to figuring out how to avoid the fiscal cliff, life experience shows us that achieving compromise is rarely easy. But why is give and take so difficult even when the consequences of failure are dire?

We may like to believe that we are fair and levelheaded negotiators, but science tells us that successful give and take is often more difficult than we anticipate. Research exploring the psychological, behavioral, and neural underpinnings of negotiation and compromise reveals many different factors — including emotions, cognitive biases, cultural differences, even physical posture — that can influence whether or not we are able to reach a deal.

Research from the Association for Psychological Science examines some of the reasons why negotiations break down and highlights some factors that may help to pave the way for compromise.

Give and Take: Empirical Strategies for Compromise
Published in the October 2012 issue of the APS Observer

Understanding the Psychological Science Behind Negotiations
Published November 2011

Negotiation Topic as a Moderator of Gender Differences in Negotiation
Julia B. Bear and Linda Babcock
Published in the July 2012 issue of Psychological Science

Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance
Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap
Published in the October 2010 issue of Psychological Science

Cultural Variance in the Interpersonal Effects of Anger in Negotiations
Hajo Adam, Aiwa Shirako, and William W. Maddux
Published in the June 2010 issue of Psychological Science

To Start Low or To Start High? The Case of Auctions Versus Negotiations
Adam D. Galinsky, Gillian Ku, and Thomas Mussweiler
Published in the December 2009 issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science

On Feelings as a Heuristic for Making Offers in Ultimatum Negotiations
Andrew T. Stephen and Michel Tuan Pham
Published in the October 2008 issue of Psychological Science

Why It Pays to Get Inside the Head of Your Opponent: The Differential Effects of Perspective Taking and Empathy in Negotiations
Adam D. Galinsky, William W. Maddux, Debra Gilin, and Judith B. White
Published in the April 2008 issue of Psychological Science

The Sunny Side of Fairness: Preference for Fairness Activates Reward Circuitry (and Disregarding Unfairness Activates Self-Control Circuitry)
Golnaz Tabibnia, Ajay B. Satpute, and Matthew D. Lieberman
Published in the April 2008 issue of Psychological Science