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Cognitive biases for mediators & negotiators
For those working in the field of mediation and negotiation, cognitive biases are to be
reflected upon regularly and dismissed at our peril. In the following slides I explore the
relevance of some of these biases. The intention of these slides is not be a exhaustive list of
all cognitive biases but rather to highlight some of the ones I feel to be most important.
Anchoring describes the common human tendency to
rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered,
i.e. the "anchor" when making decisions. Once an
anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting
away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward
interpreting other information around the anchor. For
example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the
standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices
lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even
if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.
Anchoring Bias
Confirmation Bias
A confirmation bias is the tendency to favour information that actually confirms
your existing beliefs, even if those beliefs are incorrect. The bias can cause you to
seek out information that validates your preconceptions and almost always ignore
or distort any contradictory data that goes against your current line of thinking.
Frequency illusion
The frequency illusion (also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) is the
tendency to notice instances of a particular phenomenon once one starts to look for
it, and to therefore believe erroneously that the phenomenon occurs frequently. For
example, if one is thinking about buying a new Audi car, suddenly the roads and car
parks are full of Audi cars.
Choice-supportive bias
Choice-supportive bias is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive
attributes to an option one has selected. This involves the tendency to
remember one’s choices as better than they actually were, where people
tend to over attribute positive features to options they chose and negative
features to options not chosen.
Framing effect
The Framing effect is a cognitive heuristic in
which people tend to reach conclusions
based on the 'framework' within which a
situation is presented. People react to a
particular choice in different ways depending
on how it is presented; e.g. as a loss, or as a
gain. People tend to avoid risk when a
positive frame is presented but seek risks
when a negative frame is presented.
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that
result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between
beliefs and behaviours, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the
dissonance.
Say the colour and not the word:
Cognitive Dissonance
Hindsight bias is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been
predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it. It is the
tendency to interpret events as being more predictable than they actually were which can
falsely depict a deal as being simpler than reality.

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Cognitive biases for mediators and negotiators

  • 1. Cognitive biases for mediators & negotiators For those working in the field of mediation and negotiation, cognitive biases are to be reflected upon regularly and dismissed at our peril. In the following slides I explore the relevance of some of these biases. The intention of these slides is not be a exhaustive list of all cognitive biases but rather to highlight some of the ones I feel to be most important.
  • 2. Anchoring describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered, i.e. the "anchor" when making decisions. Once an anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor. For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth. Anchoring Bias
  • 3. Confirmation Bias A confirmation bias is the tendency to favour information that actually confirms your existing beliefs, even if those beliefs are incorrect. The bias can cause you to seek out information that validates your preconceptions and almost always ignore or distort any contradictory data that goes against your current line of thinking.
  • 4. Frequency illusion The frequency illusion (also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) is the tendency to notice instances of a particular phenomenon once one starts to look for it, and to therefore believe erroneously that the phenomenon occurs frequently. For example, if one is thinking about buying a new Audi car, suddenly the roads and car parks are full of Audi cars.
  • 5. Choice-supportive bias Choice-supportive bias is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected. This involves the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were, where people tend to over attribute positive features to options they chose and negative features to options not chosen.
  • 6. Framing effect The Framing effect is a cognitive heuristic in which people tend to reach conclusions based on the 'framework' within which a situation is presented. People react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it is presented; e.g. as a loss, or as a gain. People tend to avoid risk when a positive frame is presented but seek risks when a negative frame is presented.
  • 7. The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviours, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Say the colour and not the word: Cognitive Dissonance
  • 8. Hindsight bias is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it. It is the tendency to interpret events as being more predictable than they actually were which can falsely depict a deal as being simpler than reality.