The Adversarial Mindset

Psychology, Public Policy & Law (American Psychological Association, 2020)

83 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Minwoo Ahn

University of Southern California Department of Psychology

Doug Stenstrom

California State University, Los Angeles

Stephen J. Read

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology

Date Written: April 10, 2020

Abstract

Many social outcomes are reached by means of competitions between opposing actors. While the positive effects of competition are beyond dispute, this paper contends that competitive situations also trigger a particular psychological mindset that can distort contestants’ judgment and lead to suboptimal courses of action. The paper presents a theoretical framework that consists of a myside bias, by which people adopt a self-serving view of the competition, evaluate themselves favorably, and evaluate their counterpart unfavorably. The framework also proposes the construct of otherside bias, by which people impute to their counterparts distortions that are similar, but opposite, to their own. The combined effect of these biases is to fuel conflict-promoting behavior. Next, the paper presents two experiments designed to test this framework. Using minimalistic experimental treatments, we find that participants assigned to adversarial roles display the myside and otherside biases.

The primary objective of this paper is to offer a comprehensive account of the psychological mindset evoked by competitive situations. We integrate findings established across a variety of research fields into a unifying theoretical framework and demonstrate their joint impact on this important domain of human judgment and behavior. Second, we propose that coherence-based reasoning serves as the cognitive backbone of the framework, in that the array of judgments are intricately interconnected and organized in a coherence maximizing representational structure both within and between the myside and otherside biases. Third, we discuss the framework’s implications for a variety of legal domains, including negotiations, litigation, expert testimony, and police investigations.

Keywords: adversarialism, myside bias, otherside bias, coherence effect

Suggested Citation

Simon, Dan and Ahn, Minwoo and Stenstrom, Doug and Read, Stephen J., The Adversarial Mindset (April 10, 2020). Psychology, Public Policy & Law (American Psychological Association, 2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3573099

Dan Simon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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Los Angeles, CA 90089
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213-740-5502 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.usc.edu/faculty/contactInfo.cfm?detailID=307

Minwoo Ahn

University of Southern California Department of Psychology ( email )

Doug Stenstrom

California State University, Los Angeles ( email )

5151 State University Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90032
United States

Stephen J. Read

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology ( email )

SGM 501
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States

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