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Shifts in Frame Use and Negotiation Outcomes

Sarah Ogilvie

One of the earliest researchers to write about optimal agreements, Mary Parker Follett (1942), argued that integration entails "a spontaneous flowing together of desires" (p.39). According to this conceptualisation, both parties engage in a process of revaluation such that the interests of each party merge "into one field of vision" (p.39). Follett's view implies that the process of framing and reframing can facilitate the integration of interests and understandings between negotiators, an integration that enables resolution of the dispute. Although researchers should consider how the use of frames might shift across the course of negotiation, in an applied sense there may be added utility in establishing whether or not shifts in the use of frames facilitate certain types of dispute outcomes. To date, research has only minimally investigated this relationship.

As well as investigating the phenomenon of frame convergence, Pinkley and Northcraft (1994) also explored the relationship between the expression of conflict frames and dispute outcomes. They found that, after negotiating, parties that used certain types of frames to characterise the dispute - such as the cooperate frame dimension - achieved greater economic outcomes. Use of these frames was also associated with greater joint economic outcomes. Despite Pinkley and Northcraft's indirect approach to frame measurement, these results suggest that particular characterisations of conflict may underpin certain outcome features. However, in linking frames to outcome types, Pinkley and Northcraft's research does not establish whether there are any shifts in frame use that can be associated with particular outcomes. The second aim of the current research was to determine whether shifts in frames could be linked to particular outcomes.

In their study of divorce mediations, Drake and Donohue (1996) also sought to investigate the relationship between frame use and outcome features. Transcripts of mediations were used to categorise each utterance as a frame. They also recorded the number of agreements reached during the negotiation process. They found that longer use of the same frame increased the likelihood of agreements. They argued that agreement-making was underpinned by the greater focus, process control and positive social attributions that a convergent use in frames seemed to facilitate.

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