A Decision-Making Perspective to Negotiation: A Review of the Past and a Look into the Future

by Chia-Jung Tsay & Max H. Bazerman

Overview — The art and science of negotiation has evolved greatly over the past three decades, thanks to advances in the social sciences in collaboration with other disciplines and in tandem with the practical application of new ideas. In this paper, HBS doctoral student Chia-Jung Tsay and professor Max H. Bazerman review the recent past and highlight promising trends for the future of negotiation research. In the early 1980s, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a hot spot on the negotiations front, as scholars from different disciplines began interacting in the exploration of exciting new concepts. The field took a big leap forward with the creation of the Program on Negotiation, an interdisciplinary, multicollege research center based at Harvard University. At the same time, Roger Fisher and William Ury's popular book Getting to Yes (1981) had a pronounced impact on how practitioners think about negotiations. On a more scholarly front, a related, yet profoundly different change began with the publication of HBS professor emeritus Howard Raiffa's book The Art and Science of Negotiation (1982), which for years to come transformed how researchers would think about and conduct empirical research. Key concepts include:

  • Even as it has transitioned from decision analysis to behavioral decision research to social psychology, the decision perspective to negotiation has remained central to practitioners and academics alike, offering both practical relevance and the foundation for exciting new lines of research.
  • Some of the most recent directions being pursued are surprises that early contributors to the decision perspective could have never predicted, as negotiation scholars engage with other disciplines and draw insights from diverse fields ranging from philosophy to neurobiology.
  • Such collaboration is a healthy sign for an ongoing line of negotiation research.

Author Abstract

Through the decision-analytic approach to negotiations, the past quarter century has seen the development of a better dialog between the descriptive and the prescriptive, as well as a burgeoning interest in the field for both academics and practitioners. Researchers have built upon the work in behavioral decision theory, examining the ways in which negotiators may deviate from rationality. The 1990s brought a renewed interest in social factors, as work on social relationships, egocentrism, attribution and construal processes, and motivated illusions was incorporated into our understanding of negotiations. Several promising areas of research have emerged in recent years, drawing from other disciplines and informing the field of negotiations, including work on the influence of ethics, emotions, intuition, and training. Keywords: negotiation, bargaining, biases, ethics, affect, intuition, negotiation training. 29 pages.

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