Perspective taking as a means to overcome motivational barriers in negotiations: When putting oneself into the opponent's shoes helps to walk toward agreements

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Previous negotiation research predominantly focused on psychological factors that lead to suboptimal compromises as opposed to integrative agreements. Few studies systematically analyzed factors that impact the emergence of hurtful partial impasses (i.e., nonagreements on part of the issues). The present research investigates negotiators' egoistic motivation as a determinant for the emergence of partial impasses. In addition, the authors seek to demonstrate that perspective taking serves as a powerful tool to avoid impasses and to overcome egoistic impediments. Specifically, it was predicted that within an integrative context perspective-takers succeed to exchange concessions on low-versus high-preference issues (i.e., logroll), thereby increasing their individual profits without inflicting hurtful losses upon their counterparts. Three studies were conducted to test these predictions. Study 1 reveals that whereas negotiators' egoistic motivation increases the risk of partial impasses, perspective taking alleviates this risk. Study 2 demonstrates that this beneficial effect of a perspective-taking mindset is limited to integrative negotiations and does not emerge in a distributive context, in which negotiators are constrained to achieve selfish goals by inflicting hurtful losses on their counterparts. Study 3 confirms the assumption that in an integrative context egoistic perspective-takers overcome the risk of impasses by means of logrolling. The findings of the present studies are discussed with respect to their contribution to research on negotiations, social motivation, and perspective taking.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)771-790
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 10.2011
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Psychology - Logrolling, Partial impasses, Perspective taking, Social motivation