Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 119-133

First online:

Power imbalance and the pattern of exchange in dyadic negotiation

  • Elizabeth A. MannixAffiliated withCenter for Decision Research, University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business
  • , Margaret A. NealeAffiliated withKellogg Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University

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We investigate how a key structural aspect of negotiation—power—combines with aspiration level to affect the interaction pattern of negotiators. Conflicting research findings have revealed that in most cases negotiators with anequal balance of power reach agreements of higher joint gain than negotiators with an unequal power balance, but in some instances the opposite result has been found. We suggest that it is important to consider the interaction between the negotiators to explain these varying findings. We propose that when unequal power negotiators are able to reach agreements of high joint gain it is due to the efforts of the low power party. In addition, we argue that the low power player will be most likely to drive the search for a solution of high joint gain when he or she also has high aspirations. We tested these proposals in a market negotiation with integrative potential. To examine the pattern of negotiation, all offers and counter-offers were written. The results indicated that overall, equal power dyads achieved higher joint outcomes than unequal power dyads. Under unequal power, the hypothesis that higher joint outcomes would be obtained when the low power player had high aspirations received partial support. In addition, support was found for the hypothesis that in unequal power dyads low power players would be responsible for driving solutions of higher joint gain.

Key words

negotiation power aspiration level markets