Social Cognition, Attribution, and Perception in Negotiation: The Role of Uncertainty in Shaping Negotiation Processes and Outcomes
Understanding negotiators’ perceptions is important because negotiations are generally characterized by a high degree of uncertainty on the part of the negotiating parties. Negotiators operate in a world of imperfect information. They often have limited knowledge of their opponents’ skills, preferences, and strategies, and frequently even lack insight into their own desires and behaviors (e.g., Curhan, Neale, & Ross, 2004). As a result, negotiators are often unsure of who or what to believe, how to behave to get what they want, and how to anticipate the consequences of their actions. In an attempt to reduce these types of uncertainties, negotiators are likely to be sensitive to environmental cues and vulnerable to cognitive shortcuts that enable them to simplify a relatively complex problem and make sense of their situation. At the same time, this uncertainty implies that any given negotiation situation is likely to be open to multiple interpretations. In short, the uncertainty inherent in most negotiations opens the door for negotiators’ attributions and perceptions to shape how negotiations unfold, and these negotiator cognitions are influenced by both the negotiators’ dispositions and specific features of the bargaining context. Thus, negotiators may frequently fall prey to many decision-making biases and perceptual errors (see Bazerman & Chugh, chapter 2), depending on how particular dispositional and situational factors affect their interpretation of the bargaining situation (Neale & Bazerman, 1991).