How cognitive issue bracketing affects interdependent decision-making in negotiations

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In this article, we extend theorizing on how actors in individual decision-making situations deal with multiple choices (choice bracketing) in an important joint, interdependent decision-making context—that is, negotiations. Based on the insights on choice bracketing, we posit that parties handle the complexity of multi-issue decision-making by cognitively grouping issues into separate subsets (issue bracketing). To systematically investigate this issue-bracketing process and elucidate its effects on interdependent parties' perceptions, behavior, and the quality of their agreements, we made competing propositions as to how parties would deal with varying numbers of negotiation issues: When facing a higher number of issues, parties may (1) bracket few(er) issues into more subsets, thereby resulting in (a) inadvertent scattering of integrative issues across issue subsets, (b) impaired exploration of integrative potential, and (c) a lower quality of joint decision outcomes. In stark contrast, parties could (2) bracket more issues into few(er) subsets, thereby resulting in (a) pooling of integrative issues within issue subsets, (b) facilitated exploration of integrative potential, and (c) higher-quality outcomes. We tested these predictions in one non-interactive and three interactive experiments (Ntotal = 815) using statistical and experimental mediation analyses. Results consistently revealed that negotiators facing more issues bracketed few issues into more subsets rather than more issues into fewer subsets. In turn, this narrow issue bracketing resulted in a scattering effect of the integrative issues and ultimately a lower integrative quality of decision outcomes. Findings are corroborated via an internal meta-analysis, and their theoretical and applied implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104268
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research project was supported by a research grant from the German Research Foundation (Grant DFG-TR 565/6-1) awarded to Roman Tr?tschel. We would like to thank Tabea Mosler, Marco Schauer, Luisa Staltmann, and Lara Wirdemann for their help with preparing the studies and collecting data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

    Research areas

  • Psychology - integrative negotiation, number of issues, issue bracketing, joint profits, Pareto efficiency