My research focuses on rhetorical strategies, that is, the way in which negotiators present their offers, proposals and concessions to influence the negotiation process and outcome. In addition to negotiation, I have recently become interested in the intersection of gender and influence. Below I detail some of my research projects.
Imagine a car sale negotiation where the seller asks for $5000, and the buyer tells him that they are willing to pay $4000. To close the $1000 gap, the seller makes a concession, and reduces the price by $300. On the one hand, the seller could emphasize the costliness of the $300 to them. Alternatively, they could emphasize the benefit of the $300 to the buyer. How do negotiators perceive and respond to a conceder that emphasizes the costliness of the concession versus one that emphasizes the benefit it provides to the counterpart? In my research, I examine the influence of these two concession frames on concession receivers’ perceptions, behaviors and subsequent outcomes and find that receivers respond more negatively to concessions that emphasize conceder-cost than those that emphasize receiver-benefit. Specifically, negotiators emphasizing conceder-cost are perceived to be more misleading than those emphasizing receiver-benefit. The reason why conceder-cost framing is perceived as misleading is that these two frames convey differential information; while it is clear to receivers of concessions framed around benefit that they are being helped, it is less obvious to receivers of concessions framed around cost that the conceder is indeed suffering a loss. This also means when more information on conceders’ resources is provided, such skepticism towards conceder-cost framing disappears. How do these perceptions, then, influence outcomes? I find that the negative perceptions resulting from the conceder-cost frame lead to fewer reciprocal concessions, and thus, higher economic outcomes for receivers. You can find this paper here.
I, along with my co-author Brian Gunia of Johns Hopkins University, define phantom anchors as aggressive and retracted offers in negotiation. To illustrate, let’s again think of a used car negotiation where the seller says, “I was going to ask for $14,000 for the car but I can accept $13,000” and contrast that with the seller saying just “I can accept $13,000.” In our paper, we find a robust positive effect of phantom anchors on economic outcomes in negotiation, that is, negotiators who use this strategy obtain outcomes more favorable to themselves. However, interestingly, they also suffer an interpersonal cost such that they are viewed as more manipulative than negotiators who do not use phantom anchoring. Given the importance of interpersonal perceptions in negotiation, especially those that relate to trust, we also document a number of strategies that retain the economic advantage but eliminate the interpersonal costs of phantom anchors, such as coupling the phantom anchor with market information that justifies it. You can find the paper here and its coverage by the Harvard Program on Negotiation here.
Gender and Assertiveness in Negotiation
I have a number of ongoing projects at the intersection of gender and influence. One of these projects on assertive behavior in negotiation challenges the dominant prescription for women in negotiation. What is this prescription? In simple terms, it is that women are damned if they do, doomed if they don’t. More specifically, when women act assertively in negotiation, as one should to varying degrees to obtain favorable economic outcomes, they are penalized with negative interpersonal perceptions such as decreased liking or warmth. This phenomenon, known as the backlash effect, has been widely publicized in media and left women that want to advance at the workplace through negotiation in a bind. In stark contrast to these findings, in a series of robust experiments, my co-authors and I document that when women use language that is consistent with a normative understanding of assertiveness, i.e. language that confidently puts forth what one wants while at the same time acknowledging the needs of the other party, they do not face backlash and obtain favorable economic outcomes. This working paper is available upon request.
Changing Gender Stereotypes
We live in a dynamic world and our social reality is no exception to the forces of this dynamism. In this project, I examine one facet of this reality: changes to gender stereotypes. Using large-scale historical natural language data and machine learning methods, this paper documents a decrease in gender bias, driven mostly by changes to feminine traits. These results illustrate the dynamic nature of stereotypes and show how recent advances in data science can be used to provide long-term historical analysis of core psychological variables. In terms of practice, these findings may, albeit cautiously, suggest that women and men can be less constrained by prescriptions of feminine traits. You can find the paper here.