Introducing the Positivity Ratio: The Role of Collective Emotional Expressions in
Negotiator’s Willingness to Negotiate Again
Tatiana V. Astray, PhD Candidate
Schulich School of Business, York University
111 Ian MacDonald Blvd, North York, ON M3J 1P3
Dr. Kevin Tasa
Schulich School of Business, York University
111 Ian MacDonald Blvd, North York, ON M3J 1P3
NOTE: Paper presented at the International Association for Conflict Management, Dublin,
Ireland, July, 2019.
A social function approach to emotions suggests that emotional expressions make
negotiations easier to manage by providing information about intentions, priorities, limits, and
likely future behaviours. We introduce the concept of the “positivity ratio” to the negotiation
context, a positive to negative measure of collective emotional expressions. We hypothesize that
the positivity ratio will be pertinent to workplace negotiations, and specific to social
psychological outcomes such as willingness to negotiate again. In a face-to-face mixed-motive
negotiation, the positivity ratio positively enhanced negotiator’s willingness to negotiate again
but had no impact on outcomes attained. A follow-up analysis suggested that positive emotional
expressions buffer the hampering effects of negative emotional expressions on participant’s
desire to negotiate again, and that the benefits of the positivity ratio plateau at 3 positive
emotions to 1 negative emotion. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Negotiations are one of the most common ways of reaching agreements between parties
and resolving conflict. At work, we negotiate every time we make decisions involving others,
seek understanding, and shape agreements within and between internal and external
organizational departments (Lax & Sebenius, 1986). Negotiations are complex human
interactions in which the interests of the parties involved can be aligned thereby eliciting
cooperative behaviours, opposed thereby eliciting competitive, and more commonly, a mixture of
both (a.k.a. mixed motivate negotiations; Deutsch, 1949). Maintaining positive work
relationships following negotiations is important because negotiators depend on each other to
implement contracts and secure future agreements (Jang, Elfenbein & Bottom, 2018). In this
paper, we focus on the role that collective emotional expressions (i.e., the cumulative emotional
expressions of negotiating parties) have on mixed-motive negotiations between colleagues. We
introduce the concept of the "positivity ratio", a measure of positive-to-negative social intentions
within the collective emotional expressions that occur in negotiations (Gottman, 1994a; Gottman
& Levenson, 2000; Gottman, 2011; Coan & Gottman, 2007), and explore its relevance to a
negotiator’s willingness to negotiate again with a counterpart.
Negotiations are social decision-making situations that contain elements of
interdependence and uncertainty (Lax & Sebenius, 1986; Lewicki et al., 2017; Thompson, Wang
& Gunia, 2010). There is growing evidence that emotions and their expressions regulate social
interactions and facilitate cooperation, thereby decreasing uncertainty in social situations (Barry,
Fulmer & Van Kleef, 2004; Frijda, 1986; Keltner & Haidt, 1999; Morris & Keltner, 2000; Oatley
& Jenkins, 1992; Parkinson, 1996; Van Kleef et al., 2004a, 2004b). Given that negotiations are
an inherently social process, understanding how emotional expressions influence problem-
solving and relational processes has important implications for negotiation scholars and theory
The focus of this paper is to explore the unique effects of collective emotional
expressions on negotiation outcomes and consequences for future negotiations. To this aim, we
first review studies on negotiation and emotions to show that researchers have made essential
strives to link the effects of discrete emotional expressions on negotiation processes. However,
there is a need to generate theory and research on collective emotions to gain a deeper
understanding of how social interactions, which are rich in emotional expressions, influence
negotiations in the immediate and long-term. Secondly, we review the concept of the positivity
ratio as first proposed by Gottman (1994) to explain and predict whether marital couples would
stay together. We propose that the positivity ratio has implications for professional relationships
and is likely to impact negotiator’s evaluations of social psychological outcomes following a
negotiation. Thirdly, this paper considers the application of the positivity ratio to negotiation
outcomes and generates two hypothesis which we test in a study. Finally, we discuss implications
for theory and methodology.
A Social-Function Approach to Emotions and Emotional Expressions
A social-functional approach to emotion conceptualizes emotions as an adaptive
multichannel response that allows an individual to effectively navigate a social environment by
enabling social problem solving and identifying social opportunities in ongoing interactions (e.g.,
Campos, Campos & Barrett, 1989; Ekman, 1992; Frijda & Mesquita, 1994; Tooby & Cosmides,
1990; for a detailed discussion see Keltner & Kring, 1998). Emotional states include (1) a
physiological reaction, (2) an action tendency, and (3) a subjective experience. Emotions are
usually experienced as high in intensity and short in duration, and are directed towards an object,
person, or event (Ekman & Davidson, 1994; Ekman, 2004). When expressed, emotions serve
three social functions in the service of coordinating social interactions (Keltner & Kring, 1998).
First, emotional expressions help others know one's emotions, beliefs, and intentions. Emotional
expressions evoke complementary emotions in the observer (e.g. sadness evokes helping
behaviour). Lastly, emotional expressions act as an incentive to reinforcing another's behaviour
(e.g. smiling when someone performs a kind action compared to showing anger when someone
acts disrespectfully). In social interactions, the interplay between emotional expressions can act
as a dance facilitating coordination and cooperation between individuals to help each meet their
The negotiation literature has taken an increased interest in the social-functional
approach to emotions, as researchers in other fields have begun to document how interpersonal
problems evoke specific emotions (Averill, 1980; Ekman, Davidson, & Friesen, 1990; Keltner &
Buswell, 1997; Levin & Arluke, 1982; Marsh & Ambacy, 2007; Miller, 1987; Miller & Leary,
1992) which in turn activate cognitive processes and behaviors aimed at problem solving and
relationship building (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Lutz & White, 1986; Nesse, 1990; Johnson-Laird
& Oatley, 1992). Emotion scholars distinguish the social effects of emotions by focusing on the
intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of emotions and their expressions (e.g., Keltner & Haidt,
1999; Morris & Keltner, 2000). Negotiation researchers interested in the intrapersonal effects of
emotion investigate how negotiator's felt emotions influence their judgments and behaviours
(e.g., Allred, et al., 1997). More recently, negotiation researchers have begun to focus on the
interpersonal effects of emotions, which explores how negotiator's emotional expressions
influence other's judgments and behaviours at both the individual and dyadic level (e.g., Van
Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead, 2004a). We are interested in the dyadic level interpersonal effects
of emotions to investigate how collective emotional expressions will influence negotiations.
Initially, negotiation scholars sought to provide empirical evidence that emotional
expressions impact negotiation processes, and thus that specific discrete emotions were of
interest to explore further. By providing information about a counterpart's intention and
priorities, emotional expressions can influence negotiation behaviours and outcomes, such as
integrative outcomes and satisfaction with the counterpart. More specifically, emotional
expressions can provide information about a negotiator's priority (Putnam, 1994; Pietroni, Van
Kleef, Dreu & Pagliaro, 2008), limits (Van Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead, 2004a) and cooperative
intentions (Van Kleef & De Dreu, 2010), which in turn influences concession behaviours and
As a result of discrete emotional expressions, negotiators make inferences about their
counterpart's personality dispositions which impacts future negotiations by influencing
willingness to negotiate and informing negotiation tactics (Van Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead,
2004a; Van Kleef & De Dreu, 2010). In general, positive emotional expressions leads to feelings
of warmth towards another person, intention to cooperate, and is an indication of positive
subjective experiences in the relationship (Brown & Moore, 2002; Gottman et al., 1998;
Schmidt, Cohn & Tian, 2003). However, positive expressions are not conducive to eliciting
concessions from a counterpart (Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004a; Van Kleef et al.,
2006). In contrast, negative emotional expressions are indicative of a negotiator’s limits, the
propensity for competitive behaviours, and can decrease a counterpart's desire to negotiate again,
but they can also be beneficial for eliciting concessions from a counterpart (Van Kleef, De Dreu
& Manstead, 2006; Van Kleef & De Drue, 2010). By showing that discrete emotions have
varying impacts on negotiation processes, researchers were able to show that emotional
expressions influence negotiations over and above the communication exchange that occurs in
Researchers are also beginning to understand when and how emotional expressions
influence negotiations. Social and relationship variables moderate whether emotional expressions
influence the negotiation process. Emotions have a more significant impact on negotiation
behaviours when there is trust present, the counterpart is viewed as cooperative, emotions are
considered authentic, and when the negotiator is in a lower power position (Van Kleef, De Dreu,
& Manstead, 2004a; Van Kleef et al., 2006; Tng & Au, 2014). By contrast, distrust, competitive
intentions, inauthentic emotions, and power (e.g., BATNA, managerial support) makes a
negotiator less inclined to be influenced by a counterpart’s emotional expressions (Van Kleef, De
Dreu, & Manstead, 2004a; Van Kleef et al., 2006; Sinaceur, & Tiedens, 2006; Tng & Au, 2014).
Researchers have also investigated how emotional expressions influence judgments at the
individual level. A dual process model called the Emotions as Social Information Model (ESIM)
suggests that the influence of emotional expressions on a negotiator’s behaviour can be affective
and/or in inferential depending on the information processing motivations and various social-
relational factors (Van Kleef, 2009; Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004b).
It is undeniable that the research to date has been paramount in sparking interest and
debate regarding the role of emotional expressions in negotiations. Studies on discrete emotional
expressions have progressed our understanding of negotiations by highlighting the social role of
emotions and specifying how emotional expressions are likely to influence negotiations.
However, many questions remained unanswered that result from previous methodological
choices that tend to focus on a select number of discrete emotions and rely heavily on impersonal
negotiations. As a result, we know little about how collective emotional expressions influence
negotiations, what specific emotional combinations may benefit negotiators by eliciting
concessions from counterparts and maintaining higher levels of willingness to negotiate again,
and how emotional expressions influence relationship dynamics over time.
First, many of the studies on emotional expressions focus on a select number of discrete
emotions. This limited interest in discrete emotions constricts our ability to gain a comprehensive
understanding of the role of emotional expressions in negotiations. Studies seeking to understand
positive emotional expressions tend to focus on happiness (e.g., Steinel, Van Kleef & Harinck,
2008; Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004). While studies seeking to understand negative
emotional expressions primarily focus on anger, and to a lesser extent investigate sadness,
disappointment, worry, regret, and guilt (e.g., Sinaceur & Tiedens, 2006; Van Kleef, De Dreu &
Manstead, 2006; Van Kleef & De Drue, 2010). Researchers rarely study discrete emotions in
combination. When research designs do include positive and negative emotions, researchers tend
to focus on comparing happiness and anger expressions (e.g., Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead,
2004a; Van Kleef et al., 2006).
Secondly, studies investigating the influence of discrete emotions tend to measure the
effects of emotional expressions via text responses (e.g, Van Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead, 2006;
Van Kleef & De Drue, 2010). These studies rely heavily on on-line negotiation simulations
involving strangers as negotiation partners. In contrast, real-life negotiations are often more
complex and contain many emotional expressions are one interaction. To better understand the
role of emotional expressions on negotiations, there is a need to learn about the role of collective
emotional expressions on negotiation behaviours and outcomes.
Ultimately drawing conclusions about the role of emotions in negotiations from studies
that focus on discrete emotions can be dangerous because interactions often contain a multitude
of emotional expressions which interact in complex ways. Consider the role of anger on
negotiations. Anger displays are used as information to learn about a negotiator’s limits and one's
propensity for competitive behaviours, in order to formulate an offer that could be accepted by
the angry negotiator (Van Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead, 2004a). Displays of anger can contribute
to reputations and influence negotiations in on-going interactions. When anger leads to the
perception that a negotiator is tough and competitive, counterparts demand less from the
negotiator in future interactions (Van Kleef & De Dreu, 2010). However, when an apology
follows a display of anger, counterparts consider the negotiator as cooperate and make fewer
concessions in future interactions (Van Kleef & De Dreu, 2010). This example illustrates that the
influence of anger in negotiations varies based on the broader context of emotional expressions
and social intentions. In other words, collective emotions are the context for discrete emotions to
be understood and are therefore likely to provide unique effects on important social
psychological outcomes (e.g, willingness to negotiation again) and social judgments (e.g., trust
and cooperative tendencies).
To date, scholars have yet to explore the role of collective emotions in negotiations. To
this aim, we introduce the concept of the positivity ratio as one way to capture collective
emotional expressions in negotiations. The positivity ratio was developed from research on
emotional expressions exhibited during conflict conversations in romantic relationships, and we
expect the positivity ratio to apply to negotiations between professionals in relationships.
The Positivity Ratio
Psychology research suggests that emotional exchanges can facilitate or hinder individual
problem-solving instances as well as relationships over the long term. Interpersonal problems
provoke specific emotions (e.g. Averill, 1980; Keltner & Buswell, 1997; Miller & Leary, 1992)
and the behavioural manifestations of these emotions can trigger interpersonal interactions that
can resolve the originating problem (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Lutz & White, 1986; Nesse, 1990;
Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 1992). Of interest is the research by Gottman, who spent a decade
observing couples in interactions and found that the quality of a relationship can be measured
using a positive-to-negative emotional expression ratio termed the positivity ratio. Furthermore,
the positivity ratio has long-term predictive value for relationship satisfaction and durability with
a predictive value of 80-93% (Gottman, 1994a,b; Gottman et al., 1998; Gottman & Levenson,
2000). The positivity ratio offers one way to capture the influence of collective emotional
expressions on negotiation processes as well as be a new antecedent to social psychological
outcomes (e.g., willingness to negotiation again). We briefly review the existing research on the
positivity ratio before considering its effects on negotiation outcomes.
Gottman began his research program by inviting couples to have conversations about
their everyday unresolved issues. He videotaped these discussions and coded the emotional
expressions by the intentions of each expression. By keeping track of these couples over many
years, he was able to link the collective emotional expression to relationship longevity and
satisfaction (Gottman, 1994a; 1994b; Gottman et al., 1998; Gottman & Levenson, 2000). When
discussing conflict topics, the most successful marriages, as measured by longevity and
satisfaction, exhibited 5 positive to 1 negative emotional expression (Gottman, 1994a). In
comparison, the marriages that led to dissolution exhibited a lower ratio of 1 positive to 1
negative emotional expression (Gottman, 1994a). Gottman suggests that the positivity ratio
captures the quality of a relationship because it measures the overall social intentions behind
emotional expressions present in stressful interactions, and this has implications for how couples
engage in and resolve conflict (Gottman, 1994a; Gottman & Levenson, 2000; Gottman, 2011;
Coan & Gottman, 2007).
His studies suggest a curvilinear relationship between the positivity ratio and relationship
satisfaction. Discussing difficult topics may give rise to negative emotional expressions;
however, this allows couples to resolve their issues and obtain higher levels of satisfaction over
the long term. In contrast, couples who do not engage in difficult conversations, express fewer
negative emotions in their interactions, and they also do not engage in the problem solving
required to resolve their issues and attain higher levels of satisfaction. His work further showed
that not all negative emotions have an equal impact on relationships. The presence of constant
criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are particularly harmful to relationship
longevity (Gottman, 1993; 1994a; 1994b). Gottman's work highlights the need to understand
emotional expressions as a collective unit within an exchange. For example, in understanding the
role of negative emotional expressions, it would be wrong to assume that negative emotions hurt
relationships. Instead, Gottman's work shows that negative emotional expressions in and of
themselves do not harm the relationship, but rather, it is the type of negative emotions as well as
the lack of positive emotional expressions which creates harmful interpersonal dynamics.
While the positivity ratio can capture the overall quality of a relationship, each valence of
affect can have a unique effect on relationship satisfaction and commitment over the long term.
For example, initial studies found that negative emotional expressions in conflict-resolution
conversations predicted early divorce (Gottman & Levenson, 1992; Gottman 1994a). Subsequent
longitudinal studies found that low levels of positive emotional expressions in events-of-the-day
conversations predicted later divorce (Gottman, et al. 1998; Gottman & Levenson, 2000).
Together these studies highlight the importance of understanding both the positivity ratio and the
unique effects that negative and positive emotional expressions can have on relationship
The Positivity Ratio And Negotiation Outcomes
We take a social-function approach to emotional expressions and incorporate insights
from research on the predictive value of collective emotions in marriage satisfaction and
longevity, in order to draw conclusions about the relationship between collective emotional
expressions and negotiations. Specifically, we are interested in exploring the relationship
between the positivity ratio and negotiation outcomes (willingness to negotiate again, outcome
attainment). In doing so, we depart from previous research that has focused on the role of
discrete emotional expressions on concession behaviour (Van Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead,
2004a; 2004b; Van Kleef et al., 2006), demands (Van Kleef & De Dreu, 2010), integrative
outcomes (Pietroni et al., 2008), and satisfaction with the counterpart (Van Kleef, De Dreu &
We expect that the collective emotional expressions will be pertinent to social
psychological outcomes, such as negotiator’s willingness to negotiate again. Research on discrete
emotions shows that emotional expressions have simultaneous implications for bargaining
behaviours and future negotiations. For example, expressions of disappointment or worry (Van
Kleef, De Dreu & Manstead, 2006) and anger (Van Kleef & De Drue, 2010) can evoke
concessions. However, if a negotiator expresses excessive amounts of these emotions, their
counterpart will form a negative judgment towards the negotiator, which in turn will decrease the
counterpart's desire to negotiate with them again. Gottman (1993; 1994a) also found that
negative emotions can hamper relationship satisfaction and longevity in marital relationships.
However, when negative emotions were expressed alongside positive emotional expressions,
then couples were able to have the difficult conversations required to solve problems and
maintain higher levels of satisfaction. Gottman's research suggests that both positive and
negative emotions must be considered together because collective emotional expressions reflect
a measure of relationship quality, the ability to engage in constructive problem-solving, and has
long-term implications for relationship commitment and satisfaction (Gottman, 1994a; Gottman
& Levenson, 2000). We anticipate that when negotiators express a higher positivity ratio, their
counterpart's will form more favourable impressions about the negotiation experience and the
negotiator, which in turn will increase the counterpart's desire to negotiate again. Formally
Hypothesis 1: A higher positivity ratio will enhance the willingness to negotiate again.
In considering the role of the positivity ratio on a participant’s desire to negotiate again,
we will explore whether positive emotional expressions moderate the hampering effects of
negative emotional expressions on a negotiator’s desire to negotiate again. Research in
psychology suggests that positive emotions can serve as a buffering against the cognitive and
social effects that result from negative emotions (Fredrickson, 2001). Gottman suggests that
there is a curvilinear relationship between the positivity ratio and relationship satisfaction, such
that increasing the positivity ratio to 5 positive to 1 negative emotional expressions from 1
positive to 1 negative emotional expression benefits the relationship significantly. However,
excessive expression of positive emotions posed to be too much of a good thing by limiting a
couple’s ability to effectively engage in problem-solving. This in turn negatively impacts
relationship satisfaction in the long term (Gottman, 1994a).
Negotiation studies also find that positive expressions can buffer against the adverse
effects of negative expressions on willingness to negotiate again. For example, when expressions
of anger present with an apology, this preserves a counterpart’s favourable judgment about a
negotiator and maintains the counterpart’s desire to negotiate again (Van Kleef & De Dreu,
2010). Therefore, we expect that positive emotional expressions will moderate the effects of
negative emotional expressions on the counterpart's desire to negotiate again. We expect that
after a certain point, the helpful effects of positive emotions on negotiator’s willingness to
negotiate again will cease. It is also possible that extreme expressions of positive emotions may
become detrimental to negotiations. We do not have enough data to create formal hypothesis
around this idea but will test for it statistically. Formally stated:
Hypothesis 2: Negotiator’s positive emotional expressions will moderate the effects of
negative emotional expressions on the counterpart's willingness to negotiate again.
The negotiation literature suggests that interpersonal emotions play an important role in
the development of accurate negotiation mental models and interpersonal trust, both of which
can improve individual and joint outcomes in mixed-motive negotiation (Curhan, Elfenbein, &
Xu, 2006; Frijda, 1986; Kong, Dirks, & Ferrin, 2014; Morris & Keltner, 2000; Thompson, 1991;
Van Boven & Thompson, 2003; Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004a; 2004b). While
emotional expressions may provide the opportunity for negotiators to reach higher individual and
joint outcomes, this may be dependent on the behaviours that occur in negotiations and not on
the emotional expressions. Research on negotiations and relationships suggests that negotiators
must engage in both value creating and claiming behaviours, otherwise, negotiators achieve
lower outcomes in their negotiations within relationships than with strangers (Ben-Yoav & Pruitt,
1984; Thompson & De Harpport, 1990; McGinn & Keros, 2002). We expect that the positivity
ratio does not impact negotiations directly. Instead, we propose that the positivity ratio impacts
outcomes indirectly through negotiation behaviours, and that the effects of the positivity ratio on
negotiation outcomes will become more pronounced as negotiators engage in repeated
interactions. Therefore, we are not confident that we will see these effects in the short-term, and
only test this relationship informally.
The aim of this study is to show the relevance of the positivity ratio to a mixed-motive
negotiation, and test whether the positivity ratio, a measure of collective emotional expressions,
has an impact on negotiation outcomes. We examine the direct effects of the positivity ratio on a
partner's willingness to negotiate again (H1) and attained outcomes at the individual and dyadic
level. Additionally, we explore the unique and combined effects of positive and negative
emotional expressions on willingness to negotiate again to examine the buffering effects of
positive emotions (H2) and identify whether there is an optimal positivity ratio in the negotiation
102 (52 dyads, F=48, Age=28) Master's level business students participated in a dyadic
negotiation as part of a Negotiation course.
Participants in randomly assigned dyads were given their role materials a week before
the negotiation exercise to prepare. The negotiation exercise simulates a one-on-one
negotiation between colleagues, specifically a newspaper editor and the manager of
advertising, about how to utilize a new printing press purchased by a new owner of the
newspaper. The negotiation exercise includes 5 main deal components, with each component
containing between 4 and 7 sub-options. A quantitative scoring system allocates points to each
sub-option such that higher value deal component contains a higher number of points. One
component of the deal is zero-sum, or distributive, while the other four components have
integrative potential because each side values that component differently. Thus, negotiators
can “create value” if they trade the issues of lower importance to them in exchange for issues
of higher importance to their counterpart.
On the negotiating date, dyads had up to 40-minutes to negotiate. Participants then
completed an online Qualtrics questionnaire and reported the expressed emotion of their
partners, deal outcome, and willingness to negotiate again with the same partner. The positivity
ratio was calculated from the emotional expressions score, which served as the independent
variable, while deal outcome and willingness to negotiate again served as the dependent
variables. Participants also reported their level of familiarity with their counterpart as a control
variable. All variables were continuously measured.
Positivity Ratio. To collect information about the emotional expressions that occurred in
the negotiation exercise, we used the Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF) (for a detailed
review, see Coan & Gottman, 2007; see the Appendix A for the items included). Participants
were asked participants to report the extent to which their counterpart engaged in specific
behaviors. The questionnaire items only listed the behavioral indications for each emotional
expression and excluded the behavioral labels to remove potential reporting biases and account
for differences in how individuals categorize specific emotional expressions. Asking partners to
report on their counterpart's emotional expression was a design choice to minimize self-report
bias, as individuals may be unaware of their emotional expressions during interactions.
Furthermore, the partner's registration of emotional expressions is of interest in understanding
how a target's emotional expressions relate to a partner's willingness to negotiate again.
The SPAFF included 11 items for negative emotional expressions (anger, belligerence,
contempt, criticism, defensiveness, domineering, fear/tension, sadness, stonewalling, threats,
whining; α=.93; disgust was excluded) and 5 items for positivity emotional expressions
(affection, enthusiasm, humour, interest, validation; α=.87) to create a comprehensive measure of
the emotion expressed at during an interaction. Mean scores were created, and a positivity ratio
score for each participant was calculated by dividing the mean of positive emotional expressions
by the sum of mean positive and negative emotional expressions (MeanPositive/(MeanPositive +
MeanNegative)). All items were completed on a 5-point Likert scale. A one-way ANOVA confirmed
that there were no significant differences between the class sections on the means of the positive
emotional expressions, negative emotional expressions, nor the positivity ratio (FPositive Emotional
Expressions Average(2,94)=2.18, p>.05; FNegative Emotional Expressions Average(2,94)=.03, p>.05; FPositivity
Willingness To Negotiate Again. Participants reported their willingness to negotiate again
on a 1 item measure. Items were completed on a 6 and 7-point Likert scale depending on the
class section and converted to a Z score to maintain consistency between sections.
Deal Outcome. Outcomes were reported by asking participants to tally the value of each
item and report the overall score. Participates additionally reported the details for their deals to
objective confirm score outcomes. Each participant’s score was converted to a Z score to
maintain consistency between sections. The sum of each participant’s score created a value for
the integrative potential of each dyad.
Familiarity. Participants reported their level of familiarity with their partner on a 1 item
measure which was then converted to a Z score. Items were completed on a 5-point Likert scale
depending on the class section and converted to a Z score to maintain consistency between
49 out of 52 dyads reached a deal within the allotted time, and only these dyads were
included in the hypothesis testing. Table 1 reports a summary of the correlations and descriptive
statistics at the individual level. Table 2 reports a summary of the correlations and descriptive
statistics at the dyadic level. Our primary interest in the data was the relationship between the
positivity ratio and negotiation outcomes. As expected, both the individual and dyadic level
correlations showed that the positivity ratio is positively correlated with willingness to negotiate
again (rIndividudal Level=.58, p<.001; rDyadic Level=.52, p<.001) but not with outcome scores (rIndividudal
Level=.-.03, p>.05; rDyadic Level=-.07, p>.05). Next, we turned out attention to the hypothesis testing,
which focuses on willingness to negotiate again as the dependent variable.
Table 1. Individual Level Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6
1.Familiarity (Z) .00 .98 --
2.Individual Outcomes (Z) .07 .85 .07 --
3.Willingness to Negotiate
.00 .98 .28** .04 --
4. Positivity Ratio .63 .14 .14 -.03 .58** --
2.52 1.05 .09 -.07 .39** .81** --
6. Negative Emotional
1.33 .62 -.13 -.08 -.57** -.74** -.26** --
** p < .001.
Table 2. Dyadic Level Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6
1.Dyadic - Familiarity (Z) .00 1.6 --
2.Dyadic - Outcomes (Z) .15 .88 -.05 --
3.Dyadic - Willingness to
Negotiate Again (Z)
.06 1.8 .13 .39** --
4. Dyadic - Positivity Ratio .63 .13 .18 -.07 .52** --
5. Dyadic - Positive
2.51 .79 .12 -.13 .43** .83** --
6. Dyadic - Negative
1.34 .56 -.19 -.09 -.54** -.85** -.46** --
** p < .01.
To test our hypothesis, we used the Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM), a
multi-level analysis (Kenny, Kashy & Cook, 2006). This model is applicable when the data is
interdependent (e.g., dyadic relationships), as well as when the dependent variable is continuous
and varies between each member of the dyad. The APIM analyses the degree to which each
member’s response or behaviour is associated with their counterpart’s response or behaviour. It
provides an independent statistical test for the actor effects (e.g., the target negotiator) and the
partner effects (e.g., the counterpart negotiator), while simultaneously controlling for the effects
of one’s counterpart on each path. The APIM uses the dyad as a unit of analysis and adjusts the
degrees of freedom when testing the actor and partner effects (For additional details, refer to
Campbell & Kashy, 2002; Kashy & Kenny, 2000; Kenny, 1996). We chose the APIM because it
allowed us to use the full dataset while increasing the statistical power compared to similar
To test whether the positivity ratio influences a participant’s willingness to negotiate
again (H1), we ran an APIM model with the positivity ratio as the independent variable and
willingness to negotiate again as the dependent variable. We also took into account the unique
effects of familiarity in the model. Results showed that the actor and partner positivity ratio each
had a positive influence on the actor’s willingness to negotiate again (βActor=6.98, SE=1.79,
t(50.1)=3.88, p < .001; βPartner =5.11, SE=1.79, t(49.81)=2.81, p < .00; See Table 3 for the results).
Familiarity had a smaller positive effect on willingness to negotiate again (βActor=.18, SE=.08,
t(79.33)=2.22, p=.029). There was a significant interaction effect between the actor and partner
positivity ratio on the actor’s willingness to negotiate again (βActor x Partner=-6.99, SE= 3.08, t(41.37)=-
A spotlight analysis was computed to further assess the interaction between the actor and
partner positivity ratio (Hayes, 2012). The actor positivity ratio was set at low (-1SD), medium
(Mean), and high levels (+1SD) for this purpose. High and medium actor positivity ratios
showed no significant interaction effects with the partner positivity ratio (βHigh=-.36, SE=.97,
t=-.37, p>.05; βMedium=-.36, SE=.97, t=-.37, p>.05). In contrast, low levels of the actor positivity
ratio interacted with the partner positivity ratio (βLow=1.68, SE=.65, t=2.58, p=.01). Figure 1
shows that when participants observed their counterparts expressing at least 2 positive to 1
negative emotion (2 positive emotions/(2 positive + 1 negative emotions)=.65), then participants
relied on these observations to inform their desire to negotiate again with their counterparts.
However, when participants observed their counterparts expressing 1 positive to 1 negative
emotion (1 positive emotion/(1 positive + 1 negative emotions)=.5), then the frequency of their
own positive to negative emotional expressions had an enhancing effect on their willingness to
negotiate with their counterpart again.
Table 3. APIM: The Positivity Ratio Explaining Willingness to Negotiate Again of The Partner
Variable Estimate SE t p
Intercept -4.80 .95 -5.04 .00
Positivity Ratio, Actor 6.98 1.79 3.88 .00
Positivity Ratio, Partner 5.11 1.79 2.85 .006
Familiarity, Actor .18 .08 2.22 .029
Positivity Ratio, Actor × Partner -6.99 3.08 -2.27 .028
Figure 2. The Effects of the Actor and Partner Positivity Ratio on the Actor Willingness to
Hypothesis 2 was interested in identifying whether positive emotional expressions
buffered the effects of negative emotional expressions on willingness to negotiate again. We
were also interested in identifying whether the data suggested that there was an optimal positivity
ratio. To test Hypothesis 2, we ran an APIM model with positive and negative emotional
expression averages as the independent variables and the willingness to negotiate again as the
dependent variable, while taking into account the unique effects of familiarity. Results showed
that the actor positive emotional expression average did not have a significant effect on the
actor’s willingness to negotiate again (βActor =-.12, SE=.17, t(88.01)=-.69, p>.05). The actor negative
emotional expression average had a negative effect on the actor’s willingness to negotiate again
(βActor=-1.29, SE=.27, t(67.6)=-4.68, p<.001, See Table 4 for the results). Familiarity had a smaller
positive effect (βActor=.18, SE=.07, t(84.3)=2.4, p=.018). There was an interaction between the actor
positive and negative emotional expression averages on the actor’s willingness to negotiate again
(βPositive x Negative Emotional Expressions=.29, SE=.13, t(84.69) =2.25, p= .026).
A spotlight analysis assessed the interaction between the actor positive and negative
emotional expression averages (Hayes, 2012). The actor negative emotional expression average
was set at low (-1SD), medium (Mean), and high levels (+1SD). Low actor negative emotional
expression average showed no significant interaction effects (βLow=.13, SE=.08, t=1.55, p>.05).
In contrast, high and medium actor negative emotional expression average interacted with actor
positive emotional expression average (βHigh=.45, SE=.12 t=3.6, p<.001; βMedium=.24, SE=.07
t=3.13, p<.01). Figure 2 shows that as participants observe negative emotional expressions, the
presence of positive emotional expressions becomes increasingly important to participant’s
willingness to negotiate again.
We further used a Johnson-Neyman analysis to identify the value at which positive
emotional expressions no longer impacted negative emotional expressions (Hayes, 2012). The
moderator value defining the Johnson-Neyman significant region was 3.00. The analysis
suggests that the buffering effects of the positive emotional expressions on negative emotional
expressions are optimized at 3 positive to 1 negative expressions. Further increases in positive
emotional expressions do not enhance participant’s willingness to negotiate again.
Table 4. APIM: The Effects of Actor Positive and Negative Emotional Expressions in Explaining
Willingness to Negotiate Again of the Actor
Variable Estimate SE t p
Intercept 1.08 .42 2.54 .013
Positive Emotional Expressions Average,
-.12 .17 -.69 .48
Negative Emotional Expressions Average,
-1.29 .27 -4.68 .000
Familiarity, Actor .18 .07 2.4 .018
Positive × Negative Emotional Expressions
.29 .13 2.25 .026
Figure 3. The Effects of the Actor Positive and Negative Emotional Expressions on the Actor
Willingness to Negotiate Again
This study shows that the positivity ratio is related to the counterpart's willingness to
negotiate again and is not related to outcome attainment. Furthermore, we finds that positive
emotional expressions can buffer against the harmful effects of negative emotional expressions
on willingness to negotiate again. These effects are optimized when negotiators show 3 positive
to 1 negative emotional expressions. This paper extends Gottman’s concept of the positivity ratio
to professional relationships, thereby providing a novel way to study the role of collective
emotional expressions on negotiation processes and outcomes. In identifying the positivity ratio
is an antecedent to social psychological outcomes, we open the door for future research to
explore the broader ways in which collective emotional expressions influence negotiations. Next,
we elaborate on the implication of the positivity ratio for negotiation and emotion research and
its managerial implications before concluding on limitations and our future research directions.
Our study raises insights and questions regarding the appropriate level of analysis to
conceptualize collective emotional expressions, the unique and interacting effects of the positive
and negative dimensions of the positivity ratio, and identified new variables to explore in
conjunction with the positivity ratio. First, our study suggests that collective emotions are best
understood as a dyadic level phenomena because there are nuanced direct and indirect effects
between each party’s positivity ratio and social psychological outcomes in negotiations.
Therefore, we suspect that the positivity ratio is specific to a negotiating pair rather than an
individual. Future research can explore how individual-level effects combine at the dyadic-level
to produce collective emotions. To generate such insights, researchers would benefit from using
methodological designs that allow social dynamics to unfold, and to capture collective emotions
in emotion-rich environments, such as face-to-face negotiations, negotiation partners with an
existing relationship, and mixed-motive negotiation simulations.
Given that the effects of the positivity ratio on willingness to negotiate again were
captured by measuring participant’s perceptions of their counterpart’s emotional expression,
these effects will likely be moderated by variables that influence the negotiator’s ability to
identify their counterpart’s emotional expressions accurately. Future research can explore the
moderating effects of variables that influence accuracy perceptions, such as individual
differences (Elfenbein et al., 2007), the expresser’s culture (e.g., Adam & Shirako, 2013), the
perceiver’s culture (e.g., Adam, Shirako & Maddux, 2010), power dynamics (e.g., Van Kleef et
al., 2006), and familiarity with the counterpart (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2003).
Secondly, complimentary to past research, we find evidence that positive emotional
expressions buffer against the hampering effects of negative emotional expressions (Fredrickson,
2001; Gottman, 1994). We find that positive emotional expressions become increasingly vital as
negotiators engage in negative emotional expressions and that the buffering effects of positive
emotions plateau at 3 positive for every 1 negative emotional expression. In comparison,
Gottman’s work suggests a curvilinear relationship between positive and negative emotional
expressions on relationship satisfaction. The difference in the effects found may be attributed to
the fact that our participants were MBA students who shared a more impersonal relationship with
their partners compared to Gottman’s married couples, or the fact that our participants engaged
in a negotiation while Gottman’s participants engaged in a conflict discussion. Future research
can explore whether the effects of the positivity ratio on relationship satisfaction vary as a
function of the relationship stage or relationship quality. Additionally, researchers can
experimentally manipulate the positivity ratio so to answer whether expressing too many positive
emotions is detrimental to satisfaction in various conflict and negotiation scenarios.
To date research has found that willingness to negotiate again is enhanced by relationship
and process factors related to the bargaining stage (Curhan, Elfenbein & Xu, 2006), negotiation
satisfaction (Oliver, Balakrishnan & Barry, 1994), perceived trustworthiness (Christen, 2004;
Naquin & Paulson, 2003; Flek, et al, 2017), face-to-face interactions compared to online
exchanges (Naquin & Paulson, 2003), having previously reached an agreement (Flek, et al,
2017), as well as having a prosocial disposition (versus a proself disposition; Van Kleef & De
Dreu, 2010). Research on discrete emotions also find that negative emotional expressions (e.g.,
anger) can hinder a counterpart’s willingness to negotiate again and that these effects can be
limited when negotiators engage in remedy behaviours (e.g., apologizing for the anger) (Van
Kleef & De Dreu, 2010). We identify that the positivity ratio, a measure of collective emotional
expressions, is an additional emotion-related antecedent to counterpart’s willingness to negotiate
The positivity ratio offers two actionable insights for professionals. First, negotiators do
not need to be afraid of expressing negative emotions during negotiations with their colleagues.
Instead, negotiators should maintain an overall positive tone in their emotional expressions so to
preserve their counterpart’s desire for a continued relationship. Our data suggest that negotiators
should strive to express 3 positive emotional expressions for every 1 negative expression.
Secondly, our findings caution that while emotional expressions related to satisfaction and future
negotiations, higher levels of positive emotional expressions do not directly translate to higher
outcome attainment. Therefore, negotiators should express positive emotions while
simultaneously engaging in strategic negotiation behaviours that enhance outcome attainment
(e.g., logrolling, Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers), so that they can benefit from the
opportunities present in their professional relationships.
Future Research And Limitations
Our research departs from prior work by focusing on a measure of collective emotional
expressions, having participants engage in face-to-face negotiations, and using a mixed-motive
negotiation scenario involving colleagues rather than strangers engaged in a buyer-seller
situation. Our study is encouraging to researchers interested in better understanding the social
function of emotions in negotiations and their interpersonal effects. Specifically, we introduce
the concept of the positivity ratio as a useful tool when assessing the interpersonal effects of
collective emotional expressions on negotiations.
This research was designed to generate initial evidence about the applicability of the
positivity ratio to negotiations. While we made strategic choices to investigate these effects in
face-to-face dyadic negotiations, there remain outstanding questions for future research to
answer. First, the effects of our studies were based on self-reported data, and future research can
use more stringent criteria to capture emotional expressions by coding behaviours objectively.
Secondly, our design choice to have participant's complete a single negotiation did not allow us
to capture whether the positivity ratio has long-term implications for negotiation outcomes. We
suspect that it might, when emotional expressions facilitate negotiator’s mental models, enhance
trust, and are coupled with both value creating and claiming behaviours (Curhan, Elfenbein, &
Xu, 2006; Frijda, 1986; Kong, Dirks, & Ferrin, 2014; Morris & Keltner, 2000; Thompson, 1991;
Van Boven & Thompson, 2003; Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004a, 2004b). We are also
encouraged by prior work that found a positive relationship between one’s accuracy in emotional
expressions and outcome attainment (Elfenbein et al., 2007). Future studies can use a
longitudinal or repeated negotiation design and incorporate negotiation behaviours to capture the
direct and indirect effects of the positivity ratio on negotiation outcomes. Finally, to assess the
generalizability of our findings, future studies can investigate potential cross-cultural effects,
expand the negotiation context to varying types of professional relationships, and include a more
extensive array of relationship control variables (e.g., likability).
In considering future research directions for this project, we are interested in identifying
and exploring the mechanism through which the positivity ratio impacts negotiations. A social
function approach to emotions suggests that emotional expressions allow a perceiver to
understand a target's intention, and consequently, act accordingly (Keltner & Haidt, 1999; Morris
& Keltner, 2000; Keltner & Lerner, 2010). Therefore, we suspect that trust evaluations will
mediate the relationship between the positivity ratio and social psychological outcomes. Trust is
a social evaluation that captures another’s intentions towards the target and behavioural
dispositions (Mayer, Davis & Schoorman, 1995). Also, trust has been shown to have implications
for negotiation behaviours and outcomes (Kong, Dirks & Ferrin, 2014). We suspect a mediating
relationship because neuroimaging research links facial emotional expressions to trust judgments
(e.g., Engell, Haxby & Todorov, 2007; Oosterhof & Todorov, 2009; Todorov & Duchaine, 2008,
Todorov, Baron, & Oosterhof, 2008), and prior studies identify trust as an antecedent to
willingness to negotiate again (Christen, 2004; Naquin & Paulson, 2003; Flek, et al., 2017). To
provide a more nuanced understanding of how the positivity ratio impacts trust judgments, we
will extend the Emotion as Social Information Model (Van Kleef, 2009; Van Kleef, De Dreu, &
Manstead, 2004b) to collective emotions, and investigate whether emotional expressions can
influence trust judgments through affective and/or inferential processes based on a negotiator’s
motivations and information processing ability.
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