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Implications of Findings

Sarah Ogilvie

Variations of frame use according to motivational orientation yielded few significant findings. Contrary to previous research that shows that the strategies adopted in mixed motivation negotiations may differ from the strategies in same motivation negotiations (Olekalns & Smith, 1989), the greatest differences in the use of frames in the current research were between negotiators in the competitive and the cooperative conditions. Because there were few convergent or divergent shifts in frame use between negotiators in each of the conditions, negotiators might have rapidly aligned their use of frames to ensure that any shifts were not reflected in differential use between negotiators but, rather, were reflected in the mutual shifts of frame use over time.

Overall, the largest differences in frame use were changes over time rather than differences that can be ascribed to motivational orientation. Moreover, shifts in frame use over time occurred more at the level of joint rather than differential use over time. This trend towards changes in joint frame use, characterised in this study as frame shift equivalence, was apparent in all conditions, but was more pronounced in mixed than in same motivation conditions. The finding that movement in frame use was primarily characterised by the pattern of frame shift equivalence than by convergence or divergence was largely unexpected. However, this finding is consistent with previous research that suggests that mixed motivation negotiators adopt a set of strategies that differs from the strategies of same motivation negotiators.

The current study relied on differences in the way that frames were adopted by negotiators in the mixed motivation condition at the first stage of the negotiation, with these disparities enabling the detection of frame convergence. Given that frames were not differentially adopted at Time 1, the detection of convergence became more challenging. With greater segmentation of the negotiation, the probability of detecting convergent and divergent shifts in frame use would increase. Although further segmentation of the negotiations was considered in this study, because of the relatively abundant number of frames included in the typology (12 frames reduced to eight), any quantitative analyses required that the segments for analysis be as large as possible to avoid low frame frequencies within segments. In seeking to maximise these frequencies for meaningful comparisons, the negotiation period was divided into two segments. Had a less populated frame typology been used - perhaps by expanding definitions or being more discriminatory and excluding lowly occurring frames - greater segmentation may have been more appropriate.

In sum, the observation that few convergent shifts in frame use were detected is plausible given that initial frame use may have been too similar to detect convergent shifts. Accordingly, the finding that frame maintenance was the predominant finding was not surprising. In examining those frames that were found to be maintained across time, the pattern of frame shift equivalence was detected for some of the frames within each of the conditions. The way in which the pattern of frame shift equivalence was conceptualised and measured represents a contribution to measurement practices in this domain. Once patterns of convergence and divergence, as measured through frame frequency difference scores, are discounted, shifts in joint frame use, or frame shift equivalence, can be measured.

One of the key propositions of this study was that convergent shifts in frame use would be linked to the attainment of mutually beneficial outcomes. However, the current analyses revealed few relationships between patterns of frame use and outcomes. One of the reasons that these relationships were not detected may be imputed the narrow range of outcomes attained, which tended to cluster around the integrative pole of the spectrum. Given that limited evidence of convergence was found as well as few relationships detected between types of frame shifts and negotiated outcomes, the hypothesis that frame convergence underpins more successful resolutions (Donnellon & Gray, 1989; Pinkley and Northcraft, 1994), requires continued exploration and, at present, remains minimally tested.

Previous research has found that negotiators' use of the same frame can be linked to the number of agreements reached within a negotiation (Drake & Donohue, 1996). Such a finding supports the theoretical impetus of conflict frame research, which posits that movement towards a common conceptualisation of the process is critical for the sharing of certain understandings that underpin a successful agreement (Follett, 1942). This finding also raises the possibility that significant convergence in frame use may well be associated with the mere act of reaching an agreement, but not necessarily with optimising the outcomes obtained. Securing agreements within the course of the negotiation might not necessarily be a precursor to the achievement of more integrative economic outcomes. A logical extension of the current research would, therefore, be to explore the relationships between patterns in frame shift, reaching agreements across the course of the negotiation, and economic outcomes. In addition, future research efforts could compare frame use between negotiations in which agreements were reached as opposed to negotiations which end in a stalemate.

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