J. Keith Murnighan

J. Keith Murnighan
Northwestern University | NU · Kellogg School of Management

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122
Publications
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Publications

Publications (122)
Article
Contracts are commonly used to regulate a wide range of interactions and relationships. Yet relying on contracts as a mechanism of control often comes at a cost to motivation. Integrating theoretical perspectives from psychology, economics, and organizational theory, we explore this control-motivation dilemma inherent in contracts and present the C...
Article
Models of diffusion of responsibility suggest that principals will avoid direct moral responsibility by hiring agents to act unethically on their behalf. The current research goes beyond the research on the diffusion of responsibility by investigating the influence of agents’ character on principals’ moral choices. Study 1 allowed principals to cho...
Chapter
Game theory is a theoretical investigation of the optimal strategies of rational actors in interactions marked by conflict. It attempts to identify optimal strategies for all the parties involved, given their counterparts’ strategies. Game theory’s theoretical domain is neither descriptive nor normative; it neither describes ordinary people’s actio...
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This article explores the tumultuous path to publication that begins for many of us with trying to publish our dissertation. We invited Roy J. Lewicki and J. Keith Murnighan—the 2013 and 2015 recipients of the International Association for Conflict Management (IACM) Lifetime Achievement Award—to reflect on this process, as neither of them were succ...
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Recent research has shown that reconnecting long-lost, dormant ties can yield tremendous value, often more than active ties. Yet two key research questions remain unanswered: which of a person’s many dormant ties provide the most value, and which are advice seekers most inclined to choose as reconnection targets? In the current study, we asked exec...
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The strength of organizational norms often depends on consistent reciprocity, i.e., regular and expected rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. Varying reactions by direct recipients and third-party observers, however, present the potential for unmet expectations and organizational inconsistency. This paper suggests that these...
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Even the simplest choices can prompt decision-makers to balance their preferences against other, more pragmatic considerations like price. Thus, discerning people's preferences from their decisions creates theoretical, empirical, and practical challenges. The current paper addresses these challenges by highlighting some specific circumstances in wh...
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This article presents two separate but closely related studies. We used a first sample to investigate the relationships among individuals’ reports of their income and their subjective well-being, and their approval of unethical behavior in 27 countries and a second sample to investigate the relationship between corruption in 55 countries and their...
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Rational choice models suggest that decisions should be both deliberate and calculative. In contrast, the current research suggests that calculations may lead to unintended social and moral consequences. We tested whether engaging in a calculative task would lead decision makers to overlook the social and moral consequences of their subsequent deci...
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Chronic blood shortages in the U.S. would be alleviated by small increases, in percentage terms, of people donating blood. The current research investigated the effects of subtle changes in charity-seeking messages on the likelihood of people responses to a call for help. We predicted that "avoid losses" messages would lead to more helping behavior...
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This research introduces the generalist bias – a tendency to reward and select people with general skills when complementary, specialized skills are needed. Five studies investigated its effects. Study 1 confirmed the existence of the bias in a context-free experiment. Study 2 showed that the compensation of players in NBA teams was related to thei...
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Past research on pay dispersion has found that hierarchy hurts commitment, cooperation, and performance. In contrast, functional theories of social hierarchy propose that hierarchy can facilitate coordination and performance. We investigated the effects of hierarchical differentiation using a sample of professional basketball teams from the Nationa...
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Perception and misperception play a pivotal role in conflict and negotiation. We introduce a framework that explains how people think about their outcome interdependence in conflict and negotiation and how their views shape their behavior. Seven studies show that people's mental representations of conflict are predictably constrained to a small set...
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The social networks literature suggests that ties must be maintained to retain value. In contrast, we show that reconnecting dormant ties – former ties, now out of touch – can be extremely useful. Our research prompted Executive MBA students to consult their dormant contacts about an important work project; outcomes compared favorably to those of t...
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People typically think of negotiations as competitive, which often leads them to engage in secrecy and even deception. In three experiments we show that this approach can backfire in coalition bargaining. Results show that, even though bargainers with an outcome advantage only obtain favorable outcomes when this information is public, they rarely c...
Article
The current research uses the now-classic Trust Game and introduces a new, simultaneous version of the game to investigate whether people display trust as an influence tactic. Purely personal trusting decisions should lead trustors to send equivalent amounts in both versions of the game; calculative trusting decisions should lead to more trusting a...
Article
Although contracts provide safeguards against risk, they can also signal low expectations for a relationship (e.g., suggesting a prenuptial agreement.) Three studies document how attempts to create more complete contracts, driven by a desire to effectively manage the potential pitfalls in a relationship, can crowd out rapport and undermine trust an...
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Feeling out of the loop is a common experience that people have. This research shows that feeling out of the loop lowers people’s sense of control and power. More interestingly, to overcome this lack of power, people are more likely to take action after feeling out of the loop. They are also more likely to make first offers in negotiations after fe...
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Purpose – This chapter proposes a theoretical framework – the Conflict Templates Model – that depicts how people conceptualize their outcome interdependence in conflict and negotiation situations. We focus on perceptions of outcome interdependence in dyadic conflicts, with a particular emphasis on intergroup interactions. Approach – Integrating ide...
Article
Greed is a central element in human existence. It is also frequently mentioned as a factor in many recent organizational and financial scandals. Thus, it was surprising to discover that empirical research on greed is rare. In contrast, however, a variety of different literatures present a rich conceptual foundation for understanding the dynamics of...
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Management and businesses in general are constantly facing important ethical challenges. In the current special issue, we identify the widespread emergence of unethical decision-making and behaviour in management as an important topic for a future research agenda. Specifically, we promote the use of a behavioural business ethics approach to better...
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The Web has made it easier than ever to reconnect with long-lost professional colleagues. Does it pay to do so? New research says yes - and suggests that every smart manager should try.
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People's desires to see themselves as moral actors can contribute to their striving for and achievement of a sense of self-completeness. The authors use self-completion theory to predict (and show) that recalling one's own (im)moral behavior leads to compensatory rather than consistent moral action as a way of completing the moral self. In three st...
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Rather than acting as a safeguard, contracts may actually damage relationships. Using field and lab studies, we assessed the effects of contracts on contract formation, implementation, and ultimate outcomes. Studies 1 and 2 showed that the presence of a contract led people to anticipate more contentious interactions, which then led to a reduction i...
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Several theories, both ancient and recent, suggest that having the time to contemplate a decision should increase moral awareness and the likelihood of ethical choices. Our findings indicated just the opposite: greater time for deliberation led to less ethical decisions. Post-hoc analyses and a followup experiment suggested that decision makers act...
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Because the choice to trust is inherently risky, people naturally assess others' trustworthiness before they engage in trusting actions. The research reported here suggests that the trust development process may start before the conscious assessment of trustworthiness, via the activation of a relational schema. We present three experiments that exa...
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An experiment tested whether groups lie more than individuals. Groups lied more than individuals when deception was guaranteed to maximize economic outcomes, but lied relatively less than individuals when honesty could be used strategically. These results suggest that groups are more strategic than individuals in that they will adopt whatever cours...
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Greed is a classic topic in human development (Balot, 2001; Robertson, 2001) and it inevitably affects many of our choices and decisions. Although greed is typically viewed as uniformly negative and reprehensible, we propose that people's attitudes and opinions about greed are actually subject to change. In particular, studying economics may help l...
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Research across disciplines suggests that bad is stronger than good and that individuals punish deception more than they reward honesty. However, methodological issues in previous research limit the latter conclusion. Three experiments resolved these issues and consistently found the opposite pattern: Individuals rewarded honesty more frequently an...
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Reports an error in "Suckers or saviors? Consistent contributors in social dilemmas" by J. Mark Weber and J. Keith Murnighan (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008[Dec], Vol 95[6], 1340-1353). An incorrect DOI was printed. The correct DOI is provided in the erratum. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 200...
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Groups and organizations face a fundamental problem: They need cooperation but their members have incentives to free ride. Empirical research on this problem has often been discouraging, and economic models suggest that solutions are unlikely or unstable. In contrast, the authors present a model and 4 studies that show that an unwaveringly consiste...
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Few interpersonal relationships endure without one party violating the other's expectations. Thus, the ability to build trust and to restore cooperation after a breach can be critical for the preservation of positive relationships. Using an iterated prisoner's dilemma, this article presents two experiments that investigated the effects of the timin...
Article
Several of the results reported here broadly support theories of sequential equilibria. In particular, at least four pieces of data indicate that game theory's structurally-oriented models predict some of the reasons for individuals' play in the prisoner's dilemma game: (1) more cooperation resulted when a cooperative equilibrium existed; (2) playe...
Article
Although fairness concerns may be relevant, they appear to be too simple an explanation for why game theory's strong predictions for ultimatum games are so rarely supported. Self interested offerers want to avoid rejections; unpredicted, non-equilibrium behavior is more valuable and effective than equilibrium behavior. Previous ultimatum bargaining...
Article
Research on deception in negotiation has regularly emphasized the benefits of not disclosing personal information because others may take advantage of those who are honest. In the current study we show that this advice may backfire in distributive multiparty negotiations in which individuals need to form a coalition to obtain payoffs. In Study 1, w...
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The development of trust, a fundamental, complex aspect of human interaction, requires a combination of both controlled and automatic mental processes. Most trust models suggest that individuals' cognitive consciousness assess whether to trust. Nonconscious cognitive processes, however, can also play a part in the initiation and development of trus...
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Arousal is a diffuse emotional response that can have multiple effects. We present three studies that investigated arousal's effects on auctions, which are increasingly important engines of contemporary economies and represent social contexts particularly likely to generate and be influenced by arousal. We manipulated arousal in three ways: by chan...
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In the heat of competition, executives can easily become obsessed with beating their rivals. This adrenaline-fueled emotional state, which the authors call competitive arousal, often leads to bad decisions. Managers can minimize the potential for competitive arousal and the harm it can inflict by avoiding certain types of interaction and targeting...
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Changes in power almost invariably lead to changes in behavior. This research investigates the effects of power increases and power decreases for individuals who are in strong or weak positions. We hypothesized that individuals will have strong reactions to gains in power (their demands will increase markedly) but they will act almost as though the...
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The long history of experimental research on the prisoner's dilemma (PD) has primarily used a methodology that eliminates cues to participants. Researchers, however, have interpreted participants' choices as cooperative or competitive. The authors' research shows that giving participants researchers' interpretive labels of the game, the choices, an...
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The article examines trust breaches and restoration in organizational settings. Two experiments are conducted where trust breaches took place early in new relationships and where they occurred in established relationships. The details of the methods are discussed. The results showed that when trust breaches occurred in the initial stages of new rel...
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This paper presents a model of the cognitive processes that precede decisions to help another person. The empathy-prospect model predicts that potential helpers make decisions in much the same way as decision makers in other contexts do (i.e., they evaluate prospects) and that perceptions of need and the empathic reactions and intentions to help th...
Article
Researchers have proposed a variety of models to depict, explain, and understand ethical decision-making processes. Rest (1986) proposed a four-stage, individually oriented model, in which a person who makes a moral decision must (1) recognize the moral issue, (2) make a moral judgment, (3) establish moral intent, and (4) make moral decisions. Simi...
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Counter to the "start high, end high" effect of anchors in individual judgments and dyadic negotiations, 6 studies using a diverse set of methodologies document how and why, in the social setting of auctions, lower starting prices result in higher final prices. Three processes contribute to this effect. First, lower starting prices reduce barriers...
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This book combines chapters written by leading social psychologists and economists, illuminating the developing trends in explaining and understanding economic behavior in a social world. It provides insights from both fields and demonstrates through recent research and theory how economic behaviors may be more effectively examined using a combinat...
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We investigated the effects of intragroup and cross-subgroup communications in an experimental field study on demographic faultlines. The results indicated that faultlines explained more variance in perceptions of team learning, psychological safety, satisfaction, and expected performance than single-attribute heterogeneity indexes. In addition, cr...
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In 1999, Chicago sponsored a public art exhibit of over 300 life-sized fiberglass cows that culminated in 140 Internet and live, in-person auctions. Collectively, the cows sold for almost seven times their initial estimates. These unexpectedly high final prices provided the impetus for a model of decision-making, “competitive arousal,” which focuse...
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This paper presents a new, motivated attributions model of trust development. The model builds on two simple insights: that the parties in a potentially trusting relationship are likely to view their interaction differently and that their attributions of each other’s behavior will be self-servingly motivated. The model specifically focuses on the r...
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This study investigates the differential effectiveness of cultural values and normative beliefs as predictors of behavior in a competitive group decision-making task in three countries, Israel, Japan, and the United States. Its purpose is to test hypotheses about how cultural values and norms influence the display and use of power in groups. Our in...
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Positive interactions depend on the mutual fulfillment of parties' expectations of each other and their actions. As expectations are repeatedly fulfilled, accumulating rewards can cement the perception of an implicit contract (Rousseau & McLean Parks, 1993). The perceptual nature of these implicit agreements, however, gives them an inherent fragili...
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This research investigated trust and reciprocity in two experiments using the Trust Game. In the Trust Game, Player 1 can “trust” an unknown Player 2 by sending some portion of a monetary endowment. The amount sent triples on its way to Player 2, who can then “reciprocate” by returning as much as he or she wishes to Player 1. Initial endowments wer...
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This paper uses historical and contemporary philosophical discussions of fairness to present a structural approach to the definition of fairness. After establishing a set of standards (not a specific definition), we assess the impact of fairness in negotiations and bargaining. Our analysis concludes that truly fair behavior is absent in bargaining...
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this paper were written while the second author was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. We are grateful for the financial support provided by the National Science Foundation (BNS87-00864 and SES88-15566), the Russell Sage Foundation, and the University of Illinois. We are also grateful to Greg Oldham and two anonym...
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This paper presents three experiments that investigate the effects of interpersonal perceptions on simulated monetary and salary allocations. Experiment 1 examined the effects of relationships on choices between interdependent monetary distributions for a sample of students. Experiment 2 examined the effects of relationships and competence on choic...
Article
In most models of bargaining, costless and unverifiable lies about private information and incredible threats about future actions are considered cheap talk and do not impact outcomes. In practice, however, this type of talk is often an integral part of bargaining. This experiment examines the impact of cheap talk in an ultimatum bargaining setting...
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This paper uses two laboratory experiments to investigate the effects of contracts on interpersonal trust. We predict that the use of binding contracts to promote or mandate cooperation will lead interacting parties to attribute others' cooperation to the constraints imposed by the contract rather than to the individuals themselves, thus reducing t...
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Interpersonal relationships can be fragile. The mere perception of opportunistic behavior can lead to a breakdown in cooperation. Once damaged, the question then arises as to whether and how cooperation might be restored. Noncooperative game theory raises serious doubts about the possibilities, although interactional justice and impression manageme...
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This article presents the true story of an exercise conducted in an executive MBA class. The Dollar Auction has been used to great benefit in many classes on negotiations and organizational behavior. The case described here represents the most extreme outcome that the author or his colleagues have ever observed. It leads to a number of observations...
Article
The subjective value given to time, also known as the psychological interest rate, or the subjective price of time, is a core concept of the microeconomic choices. Individual decisions using a unique and constant subjective interest rate will refer to an exponential discounting function. However, many empirical and behavioural studies underline the...
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This paper investigates the dynamics of deception and retribution in repeated ultimatum bargaining. Anonymous dyads exchanged messages and offers in a series of four ultimatum bargaining games that had prospects for relatively large monetary outcomes. Variations in each party's knowledge of the other's resources and alternatives created opportuniti...
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In January of 1999, leading negotiation scholars and practitioners gatheredat Northwestern University for a conference sponsored by the HewlettFoundation. Here, we chronicle a conversation that occurred regardingnegotiation research. Our diverse group consisted of people with backgroundsin social psychology, anthropology, sociology, and clinical pr...
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This paper investigates the information dilemma in negotiations: if negotiators reveal information about their priorities and preferences, more efficient agreements may be reached but the shared information may be used strategically by the other negotiator, to the revealers' disadvantage. We present a theoretical model that focuses on the character...
Article
It seems that a lion, a fox, and an ass participated in a joint hunt. On request, the ass divides the kill into three equal shares and invites the others to choose. Enraged, the lion eats the ass, then asks the fox to make the division. The fox piles all the kill into one great heap except for one tiny morsel. Delighted at this division, the lion a...
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Business negotiations often involve cooperative arrangements. Sometimes one party will renege on a cooperative enterprise for short-term opportunistic gain. There is a common assumption that such behavior necessarily leads to a spiral of mutual antagonism. We use some of the philosophical literature to frame general research questions and identify...
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In this article we address issues of diversity within organizational groups by discussing and summarizing previous approaches and by introducing a new variable-faultlines-which depends on the alignment of individual member characteristics. By analyzing a group's faultlines, we focus attention on the underlying patterns of group member characteristi...
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Recent research on ultimatum bargaining, the fact that children often confront and use ultimatums, and theories of developmental psychology all combine to suggest that studying children's ultimatum behavior will be particularly enlightening, both theoretically and with respect to the development of bargaining behavior. The results from two experime...
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This paper investigates the impact of some of the underlying dynamics of volunteering choices in organizational contexts, focusing on individual, group, and organizational level causes. Three scenario-based experiments manipulate individuals' standing within their organization (i.e., whether they are doing well or poorly) in combination with variab...
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Research on the distribution of resources typically focuses on anticipated outcomes. This paper investigates the social norms people use to distribute adventitious (unanticipated) outcomes. Participants in this study read a scenario where either they, or the person they were with (an acquaintance or a friend), received either an unexpected gain or...
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This study explores the ways in which information about other individual's action affects one's own behavior in a dictator game. The experimental design discriminates behaviorally between three possible effects of recipient's within-game reputation on the dictator's decision: Reputation causing indirect reciprocity, social influence, and identifica...
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The winner's curse is frequently observed in auctions: The person who bids the most and wins the auction may ultimately regret the bid since it often exceeds the value of the object being auctioned. Ball, Bazerman, and Carroll (1991) have shown that repeated experience as a bidder leads to little learning and repeated winner's curses. The current s...
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This article presents the results of two experiments that investigated fairness and apparent fairness in ultimatum negotiations. Results suggest that offerers-those presenting offers-were bath strategic and exploitative: they made offers that appeared fair only when respondents (potential recipients) had full information about the amounts to be div...
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We designed two laboratory experiments to test popular hypotheses explaining the failure of subgame-perfect equilibrium models to explain behavior in ultimatum games. The first experiment varied information available to respondents. When respondents did not know the amount being divided, offerers offered (and respondents accepted) significantly low...
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This article explores gift-giving practices using data collected through interviews in Hong Kong. I argue that Chinese culture promotes the familial over the private self and that the attainment of family-oriented goals represents an important measure of self-realization and self-fulfillment. Although each individual also has a private or inner sel...
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This study examined the dispute-resolution behavior of the "intravenor," a distinct third-party role in organizational dispute resolution. Unlike a mediator, whose involvement in the dispute is at the whim of the disputants, the intravenor can control the outcome of the dispute. Unlike an arbitrator, who is compelled to dictate the outcome of the d...
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This paper uses evolutionary, social psychological, organizational, and game theoretic literatures as frames to explore the dilemma of the choice to volunteer. Although one's group may benefit from voluntary action, volunteers typically incur more costs than others, even when their actions are successful. The four experiments presented here address...
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This paper presents experimental tests of two models of cooperation in finitely-repeated prisoner's dilemma games (Kreps, Milgrom, Roberts, and Wilson, 1982). The models suggest that either a perception that the other party may use the tit-for-tat strategy or mutual uncertainty concerning dominant noncooperative strategies can lead to rational coop...
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This article presents a new form of prisoner's dilemma (PD) game called asymmetric dilemmas (ADs). The underlying structure of ADs conforms to the requirements of a PD game, but mutually cooperative choices by the two parties give them known, different outcomes. Similarly, mutually noncooperative choices also give them different outcomes. This arti...
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This paper focuses on the relationship between the internal dynamics and success of a population of intense work groups, professional string quartets in Great Britain. We observed three basic paradoxes: leadership versus democracy, the paradox of the second violinist, and confrontation versus compromise. The central findings indicate that the more...
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This study manipulated the norm-formation process and investigated how members of new groups respond to challenges to their newly developed norm. Bargaining pairs composed of individuals who each had repeated cooperative experiences formed implicit cooperative norms, expecting cooperation and acting cooperatively in a subsequent, similar task. Alte...
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This paper reports the results of three experiments designed to test the predictions of the principal game-theoretic models of bargaining concerning the influence of risk aversion on bargaining outcomes. These models predict that risk aversion will be disadvantageous in bargaining except in situations in which potential agreements are lotteries wit...
Chapter
This paper addresses the difficulties of cooperation in asymmetric dilemmas, interactions where two or more parties have mixed motives and receive different known outcomes if they mutually cooperate or mutually noncooperate. This context thus addresses dilemmas in general rather than the unlikely but more often studied symmetric dilemma. Observatio...
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This paper estimates the risk preferences of cotton farmers in Southern Peru, using the results from a multiple-price-list lottery game. Assuming that preferences conform to two of the leading models of decision under risk--Expected Utility Theory (EUT) and Cumulative Prospect Theory (CPT)--we find strong evidence of moderate risk aversion. Once we...
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Dilemmas have been modeled in many systems; the present study addressed human groups in an empirical comparison of Nuts and n-PD, two commons dilemma games. Results of a repeated measures design indicated similarity in first-period choices but less cooperation in n-PD play across periods. Results also substantiated predictions for the effect of ind...
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This paper examines the development of norms in newly formed groups. The behavior of 19 decision-making groups provided the basis for a model of norm development, in which uncertainty over appropriate behavior leads members to use their past experiences in similar social settings as scripts for choosing behaviors in the current situation. Depending...
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The literature on organizations has long focused on the concept of coalition behavior. An experiment on coalition formation was designed as a simulation of organizational decision-making groups. Previous research and a variety of game theoretic and social psychological models of coalition behavior provided strong empirical and theoretical bases for...