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Implicit Biases May Be A Good Thing!

PGP Mediation
by Phyllis G. Pollack

In past blog posts, I have discussed implicit biases and how important it is to recognize their existence and to counteract them in our daily lives. Yet, there may be another and more positive way of looking at them. It is simply a question of “framing”. (See below!)

A November 27, 2018 blog posted on the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School notes that such biases can be used to one’s advantage in negotiating. Entitled, “The Advantages of Bias at the Negotiation Table,” the PON staff writer discusses four implicit biases that may be useful.

The first is anchoring which occurs when an individual “…rel[ies] too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (known as the ‘anchor’) when making decisions.” (Wikipedia ) . To use this bias to one’s advantage, the blog post suggests that a person start off with an extreme offer, thereby influencing the course of the negotiation and making any lesser offer seem “reasonable.” (Id. at Pon blog post.)

The second bias that can be used to one’s advantage is the availability bias which is “…the tendency to rely on readily available information.” (Id.). By carefully selecting advantageous examples of similar disputes and the amounts for which they settled, a negotiator can minimize the amount to be paid to settle the matter. (Id.)

A third bias is framing “…  in which people react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it is presented; e.g. as a loss or as a gain.[1] People tend to avoid risk when a positive frame is presented but seek risks when a negative frame is presented.” (Wikipedia) Presenting your viewpoint in positive terms, or as potential gains for the other person, will  induce the other person to want to reduce if not altogether avoid her risk of loss. The other person may even begin to trust you.

The final bias that may be useful is using “contrast effects” or offering several alternatives to settle a matter.  As the staff writer explains,

For example, rather than making a flat offer of $30,000 to settle a case, a defendant could offer a choice among $30,000 immediately, $10,000 annually for the next three years, or a $30,000 payment to charity. When compared with the other two options, the $30,000 cash offer is likely to appear more attractive than when it is the only offer on the table. A negotiator may very well compare the options offered rather than comparing the $30,000 to the option of holding out for more money. (Id.)

In sum, like everything else in life, there is more than one way of looking at biases; they can be good, or they can be bad depending on the situation and their use.

…. Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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