Sex Differences and Eye Contact in Negotiation: Combining Perspectives from Neurobiological and Communication Domains
24 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2004
Date Written: June 15, 2004
This paper deals with sex differences in negotiations. Many claims have been made about males outperforming females in negotiations. However, much of this research does not account for the contextual factors involved. In the present study, we replicate prior effects on the 'sex gap' in negotiations and demonstrate that by making certain communication aspects more or less salient sex differences can be bridged. Our findings suggest that making eye contact a more important aspect of the negotiation process enables females to attain a shared understanding and thereby increased performance. Whereas such a process was observed in males irrespective of the availability of eye contact, understanding among female dyads benefited significantly from making eye contact. The increased understanding was also accompanied by changes in interpersonal liking. Our results suggest that both males and females follow different routes towards their outcomes: Whereas males seem to perform slightly better in general, the availability of eye contact informs females about the other person involved, thereby fostering a shared understanding, which in turn leads to better negotiation outcomes. In our discussion, we propose a possible neurobiological basis for these sex differences, arguing that females process eye contact and the (affective) visual information that goes with it differently than males do and follow different routes in attaining successful negotiations.
Keywords: Sex differences, negotiation, visual information processing
JEL Classification: D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation