Moving Negotiation Theory from the Tower of Babel Toward a World of Mutual Understanding

16 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2017 Last revised: 9 Aug 2017

See all articles by John Lande

John Lande

University of Missouri School of Law


This article synthesizes insights from the University of Missouri Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution symposium, “Moving Negotiation Theory from the Tower of Babel Toward a World of Mutual Understanding.” There is a wide range of concepts, issues, perspectives, theories, and applications from different disciplines with little consensus in the negotiation field. This symposium was conducted to help clarify negotiation theory and make it more useful for scholars, faculty, students, and practitioners as well as people in their everyday negotiations. It illustrates Tower of Babel-like confusion, starting with challenges in defining negotiation and the widely (mis)used concepts of integrative and distributive negotiation. To help develop better theory, it describes potential sources of data and ideas that might contribute to negotiation theory, including empirical research on actual negotiations, fiction, and culture. It identifies some fundamental challenges in developing and improving negotiation theory, including scholars’ status quo and confirmation biases as well as the failure to incorporate insights about fundamental changes in people and our interactions. It suggests frameworks that might advance negotiation theory and contemplates the possibility of developing a grand unified theory of negotiation, while recognizing difficulties in doing so. Our critiques and ideas for integrating knowledge about negotiation can lay the groundwork for developing more useful negotiation theory.

Keywords: negotiation, theory, research, empirical research, cognitive biases, fiction, arts, change

Suggested Citation

Lande, John, Moving Negotiation Theory from the Tower of Babel Toward a World of Mutual Understanding. 2017 Journal of Dispute Resolution 1, University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-03, Available at SSRN:

John Lande (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Hulston Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

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