Handbook of International Negotiation

pp 47-58


The Biology of Cooperative Decision-Making: Neurobiology to International Relations

  • Nicholas D. WrightAffiliated withCarnegie Endowment for International Peace

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To negotiate, cooperate or compete successfully with another, we should know what motivates them and how they make decisions. To understand how humans really make decisions, we can draw on a biologically grounded account that combines evidence from neuroscience, biology, psychology and economics. I discuss three areas central to negotiation: first, evidence from biology and neuroscience about how human cooperation emerges and is controlled; second, the neural bases of the fairness motivation; and third, the neural phenomenon of “prediction error” that affects how our actions impact on others. I link each area to international negotiation through historical cases and give practical policy recommendations. Finally, I describe four general rules for using neuroscience, and the behavioural decision sciences more generally, to apply to practical policy.