Toward an Integrated Practice of Behavioral Conflict Management
25 Pages Posted: 21 May 2003
Conflict resolution is about decision making. Because decision outcomes for conflicting parties depend, at least to some extent, on the decisions of other parties to the conflict, as well as a multitude of external circumstances and third party decision making, these decisions are always made under conditions of uncertainty or risk. Conflict management is about guiding this decision making in such a manner as to mitigate this risk to the greatest extent possible.
Expected utility and subjective expected utility have contributed to the development of a normative theory of decision making under uncertainty that is economically maximizing, with possible allowances for differently shaped utility curves. On the other hand, substantial empirical efforts have contributed descriptive theories of decision making under uncertainty that attempt to address departures from the purely rational model - departures that importantly often prove to be quite robust and predictable across a wide range of decision making contexts.
This Essay proposes an agenda for conflict management research that seeks to leverage both the rational expectation models and the behavioral theories describing predictable deviations from these models to arrive at prescriptions for conflict management practice that can build a bridge between theory and practice, offering practical techniques and concrete guidelines for improvement. Specific ways that these insights can contribute to the development of conflict management practice are considered.
Keywords: Negotiator Rationality, Biases and Heuristics, Third Party Intervention
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