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Judgmental Biases in Conflict Resolution and How to Overcome Them


A common fallacy held by negotiators and dispute resolution professionals is that conflict escalation, negotiation impasses, and unsatisfactory agreements are driven by intransigence and self-interested motivations. Whereas self-interest and opposing motivations do interfere with the productive resolution of conflict, there are a host of seemingly benign beliefs and cognitions that also interfere with effective conflict resolution but often go undetected. Unfortunately, these beliefs are not easily corrected during the process of conflict resolution itself because they are difficult for negotiators to monitor. Furthermore, third party intervention is no guarantee that erroneous beliefs and cognitions will be adequately identified and eliminated. In fact, the mere presence of a third party may exaggerate the tendency of these faulty and erroneous beliefs to disturb the otherwise effective resolution of conflict. Further, third parties, and other self-proclaimed "neutrals" often fall prey to similar cognitive biases. We argue in this chapter that identifying and challenging these biases can do much to effectively resolve disputes and conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, most negotiators are not aware of the existence of cognitive biases and their deleterious effects. In the first section, we lay out our basic framework and key assumptions. In the second section, we provide illustrative examples of the effects of cognitive bias on conflict management. Finally, we examine methods by which to eliminate or reduce cognitive bias at the bargaining table.


Book Chapter


Leigh Thompson, Janice Nadler, Robert B. Lount

Date Published



Thompson, Leigh, Janice Nadler, and Robert B. Lount. 2006. Judgmental Biases in Conflict Resolution and How to Overcome Them.


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