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Negotiation And Conflict Frames

Sarah Ogilvie

"It is not what we see, but how we see it that shapes the way we interact with it" (Higgins & Bargh, 1987).

Most of us regard conflict as something to be avoided. As far as popular conceptions go, states of conflict are not particularly healthy: those in conflict are often perceived to be acting defensively, strategically seeking to exit the situation while at the same time ensuring that they maintain their positions. Despite its connotations, however, conflict can also be viewed as a necessary stimulant for development and change (de Dreu, 1997). Moreover, conflicts are often successfully resolved. Anecdotally, successful conflict resolution is said to be about the people involved feeling that they have been heard. Implicit in this view is the sharing of perspectives that enables both parties to gain greater awareness of the other's issues. It is through such a sharing of views that understandings can be reached and effective resolution can occur.

This thesis describes a study that explored the role of shared negotiator perspectives in the resolution of conflict. The first chapter details the features of two-party negotiation, its various forms and the types of economic outcomes that can be achieved. This chapter extends further to describe the way that negotiators perceive elements of conflict and the way that these perceptions have been found to change during the course of a negotiation and to affect its development. A discussion about the relationship between changing perceptions and negotiated outcomes completes the first chapter. The second chapter reviews the existing literature on perceptions of conflict. >From this analysis, a set of frames was developed. The study then describes how this set of frame characterisations was experimentally tested using negotiator communication. The third chapter then details the way that negotiators who possess differing social values are likely to adopt different types of perceptions, which in turn are likely to yield distinct negotiated outcomes.

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