Handbook of Research on Negotiation
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Handbook of Research on Negotiation

Edited by Mara Olekalns and Wendi L. Adair

Leading international scholars give insight into both the factors known to shape negotiation and the questions that we need to answer as we strive to deepen our understanding of the negotiation process. This Handbook provides analyses of the negotiation process from four distinct perspectives: negotiators’ cognition and emotion, social processes and social inferences, communication processes, and complex negotiations, covering trade, peace, environment, and crisis negotiations.
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Chapter 2: Individual differences in negotiation

Hillary Anger Elfenbein


For this chapter to be included in a research handbook on negotiation involves a certain leap of faith. After all, large-scale reviews have long concluded that individual differences are unreliable predictors of negotiation outcomes, with a preponderance of null and inconsistent results (Lewicki et al., 1994; Terhune, 1970; Thompson, 1990). Previous authors have gone so far as to conclude, “from what is known now, it does not appear that there is any single personality type or characteristic that is directly and clearly linked to success in negotiation” (Lewicki and Litterer, 1985, p. 276); “personality and individual differences appear to play a minimal role in determining bargaining behavior” (Thompson, 1990, p. 515); and “few findings have proven replicable, and contradictory findings are not uncommon” (Barry and Friedman, 1998, p. 345). And yet the chapter appears, largely due to the persistent intuition many of us share about the important role of enduring traits in the bargaining process. Some negotiators simply seem well suited for the task of extracting a good deal for themselves, some seem well suited to manage a sticky situation with everyone feeling good in the end, and others seem ill suited for either. Although researchers’ focus on individual differences in negotiation tended to decrease in the wake of the pessimistic reviews quoted above (Neale and Northcraft, 1991), it never disappeared entirely.

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