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Methodological Limitations

Sarah Ogilvie

Participants in the current research were required to role-play a negotiation task. Role-play simulations present inherent limitations compared to real life situations. In role-playing the negotiation, participants were provided with a particular set of economically-related, perhaps personally relevant, goals to achieve and a generalised account of why they might desire these particular outcomes. In completing the negotiation, participants needed to strive for outcomes that were prescribed to them and, in this way, did not necessarily develop a personal attachment to the outcomes. Without their own interests associated with the prescribed outcomes, more time is likely to have been devoted to trading off outcomes instead of exploring interests. This assertion seems to align with the results: negotiators framed information more in terms of their outcomes than in terms of their interests or aspirations. Research conducted in real-world settings indicates that a focus on outcomes, as evidenced in positional bargaining, is likely to promote less integrative solutions (Fisher & Ury, 1981). Accordingly, formulating predictions about the behaviour of negotiators who are less able to draw upon personally relevant interests in the first place might have been an ambitious undertaking.

In short, the simulation of conflict may have introduced two confounds. The first involved negotiators' attachment to outcomes. Negotiators' willingness to strive for outcomes may have been less than optimal. The second, albeit related, potential confound relates to the possibility that negotiators may have been forced into more positional bargaining, thereby producing negotiation behaviours less indicative of the types of behaviour likely to facilitate agreements in real world contexts.

Another important potential limitation to consider relates to the much debated differences in the way that novices and experts negotiate. Research has established qualitative differences in the way that novices and experts approach a problem (Chi, Feltovich & Glaser, 1981). Not only have experts acquired richer knowledge about the problem at hand, but they also tend to represent these issues differently. They are better able to transform problems that are ill-defined into problems that are well-defined. In the context of negotiation, expert negotiators are more likely to use rule driven strategies than are novices (Neale & Northcraft, 1986). In the current study, negotiators were relative novices. Therefore, participants might not have been able to translate their assigned motivational orientation into a set of related strategic behaviours. This limitation may contribute to explanations as to why firstly, the findings did not support the alignment of frame use with motivational orientation, and secondly, why there was limited detection of relationships between frame use and negotiated outcomes.

After investigating avenues for assessing the behaviour of negotiators who were involved in real life disputes, a more simulated approach was adopted in the current research to accommodate the numbers of negotiations required for the current analyses. To improve upon the current design, however, future research might attempt to strengthen negotiators' attachment to their outcomes through, for example, an offer of relevant incentives to negotiators. Moreover, despite the manipulation of motivational orientation successfully inducing the split between cooperatively and competitively motivated negotiators, stronger associations with prescribed motivations might be induced by having negotiators reflect upon or discuss with the researcher prior to the negotiation why and how their objectives might be important. Following this, negotiators could have been provided with more time to generate their own, personally relevant reasons for achieving their assigned outcomes.

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