A Look into the Mind of the Negotiator: Mental Models in Negotiation

Leigh Thompson

Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management

Leaf Van Boven

University of Colorado Boulder


Group Processes and Interpersonal Relations, Vol. 6, pp. 387-404, 2003


Negotiation can be conceptualized as a problem-solving enterprise in which mental models guide behavior. We examined the association between negotiation outcomes and mental models, as measured by negotiators’ associative networks. Four hypotheses were supported. First, negotiators who reached optimal settlements had mental models that reflected greater understanding of the negotiation’s payoff structure, and of the processes of trading and exchanging information, compared to negotiators who did not reach optimal settlements. Second, negotiators who reached optimal settlements exhibited greater within-dyad mental model similarity. Third, experience-based training was more likely than instruction-based training to produce mental models similar to the mental models of negotiators who actually reached optimal settlements. Finally, negotiators who received 10 weeks of experience-based training had mental models that were similar to novice negotiators who reached optimal settlements, except that the mental models of the experienced negotiators were more abstract.

A Look into the Mind of the Negotiator- Mental Models in Negotiation

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