Do You Have Agreement Bias? Accept Bad Deals?

Taya Cohen

Taya Cohen

Agreement bias is the tendency to acquiesce in negotiation, even if that decision results in a disadvantageous outcome in business and interpersonal relationships.

During negotiation, participants may enter a “negative bargaining zone,” when their positions and interests diverge so much that there is little possibility of crafting a win-win resolution.
Skillful negotiators usually end the discussion if it is unlikely to move beyond the “negative bargaining zone.”

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

However, negotiators may be vulnerable to accepting a disadvantageous deal for several reasons, explained Carnegie Mellon’s Taya Cohen and Leigh Thompson of Northwestern with University of Toronto’s Geoffrey J. Leonardelli.

◦       Sunk Costs: Individuals may wish to achieve a resolution, even a bad one, to feel value was gained from the time and effort invested in the negotiation,

◦       Image: Participants may wish to be seen as likeable,

◦       Erroneous Anchoring: Individuals may assume that their interests and the negotiation partner’s are mutually exclusive, and may overlook innovative, “integrative” solutions,

◦       Strength in Numbers: Negotiators who are outnumbered by the opposite negotiation team are likely to acquiesce to suboptimal deals.

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Negotiating teams tend to be less susceptible to agreement bias when discussions enter a negative bargaining zone, found Cohen, Thompson, and Leonardelli.

Solo negotiators demonstrated more agreeable behavior, and were more likely to agree to unfavorable conditions.
However, when solo negotiators were joined by only one person, they avoided agreement because they accessed additional decision support.

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson

Agreement bias occurs in lower-stakes situations than person-to-person negotiation – anonymous surveys, reported Douglas Jackson, then of Educational Testing Services and Penn State.
This “yea-saying” propensity, called acquiescence bias, is triggered when people agree to survey items, no matter the content.

Samuel Messick

Samuel Messick

A major contributor to acquiescence bias was social desirability concern, confirmed in research by Jackson and his  ETS colleague Samuel Messick in a factor analysis of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) items.

Robin Pinkley

Robin Pinkley

In addition, faulty judgments can lead to poor negotiation outcomes like agreement, noted SMU’s Robin L. Pinkley, Terri L. Griffith of Santa Clara University, and University of Illinois’s Gregory B. Northcraft.

Terri Griffith

Terri Griffith

Pinkley’s group demonstrated ineffective outcomes when negotiators:

  • Accurately processed faulty and incomplete information (information availability errors),
  • Inaccurately process valid or complete information (information processing errors).
Gregory Northcraft

Gregory Northcraft

-*How do you guard against agreeing to bad deals?

-*How do reduce the possibility of Information availability errors and information processing errors?

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One thought on “Do You Have Agreement Bias? Accept Bad Deals?

  1. Pingback: Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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