Cognitive Biases Mediators and Negotiators Should Keep in Mind

For those working in the fields of mediation and negotiation, spotting cognitive biases can be a testament to your experience and capabilities. Cognitive biases are genuine limitations in our thinking that can arise from errors of memory or other miscalculations. Everyone around us has cognitive biases, but we cannot spot them until we learn to identify them. For a mediator or a negotiator, spotting these cognitive biases can help in reaching a settlement for the parties involved. Here are seven cognitive biases humans often engage in:

Anchoring Bias: This is our tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information we are given. Any information provided after this first piece of information is compared to the initial information. For example, the first price a salesman provides for a car becomes an “anchor.” All negotiations after he tells you the initial price will be compared to that “anchor” price.

Confirmation Bias: This is our tendency to only believe information that confirms our existing beliefs. Since we do not want to admit that our beliefs may be wrong, we only seek out information that confirms our beliefs. Imagine a child who believes the Earth is a square and refuses to look at a globe because he does not want to change his existing belief. Like a child, we often engage in confirmation bias.

Frequency Illusion: This is our tendency to start noticing certain things or particular phenomenon one we start looking for it. Let’s say you are thinking of purchasing a new Tesla. Suddenly you start noticing all the Tesla’s on the street and in the parking lots. This leads you to think there are more Tesla’s on the road. However, this is not true. You just never noticed them before. Now that you are thinking of buying one yourself, you start seeing them everywhere.

Choice-Supportive Bias: This is our habit of ascribing positive attributes to an option we have already selected. It can be a way to make yourself feel better or more confident about your choice. If you took one job over another, you will constantly remind yourself of the perks that come with this job and try to underestimate the opportunities the other job could have provided.

Framing Effect: This is our tendency to reach conclusions based on the “framework” within which a situation is presented. Depending on the situation, you may choose to see it as a loss or a gain. Going back to the job example, you might frame your new job as a gain or a loss depending on what criteria you use for a positive or negative frame.

Cognitive Dissonance: This happens when we are faced with two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between our beliefs and behaviors, we must adjust our actions accordingly.

Hindsight Bias: This is our tendency to look back at events and think they were more predictable than they actually were. Looking back, we think we “should have seen that coming.” However, the truth is we often simplify the past and this is not always the right thing to do.

Mediators and negotiators play a crucial and central role in resolving disputes. Not only should they behave as a neutral third-party, they should also keep an eye out for the seven most common cognitive distortions listed above. Although we all engage in these cognitive distortions from time to time, having an understanding and awareness of them makes us more likely to spot them. For mediators and negotiators, spotting these distortions in the parties can help resolve a conflict more quickly and efficiently.

Source referenced: LinkedIn




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Rausch Mediation & Arbitration Services
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