Moran Deutsch's Interpersonal Negotiation Experiment

Philip Kelley
Moran Deutsch's Interpersonal Negotiation Experiment

Interpersonal negotiation is something that is part of our day to day without us hardly realizing it. One of the works that allows us to better understand how this activity works is the experiment of Morgan Deutsch and Robert Krauss. Let's see it.


  • Interpersonal negotiation, present in our lives
  • Methodology of the experiment
    • First experiment
    • The second experiment
    • The third experiment: forced communication
    • Conclution
      • The cooperative style of negotiation is characterized by:
      • The competitive style of negotiation, on the other hand, is characterized by:
    • References

Interpersonal negotiation, present in our lives

Negotiation is crucial in our lives. Every day we negotiate all kinds of issues with our environment, from working conditions to the distribution of tasks at home, through leisure plans with friends.

Everything is susceptible to being negotiated and implies having basic qualities and knowledge to achieve success in said negotiations. This is the basis of the interpersonal negotiation experiment that we talk about in this article..

The Morgan Deutsch and Robert Krauss experiment investigated interpersonal negotiation supported by two factors as the axis of the research. The first of these was the knowledge of how we communicate with other individuals, and the second, the use of threats as a way to achieve our objectives..

It is a widely recognized social psychology experiment in this field. The reason is that he managed to explain why there are people who are more successful than others in the field of negotiations..

As we said, the pillars of this experiment are communication and threat. These are the factors that can lead to a negotiation being a success or, conversely, the result being a failure.

Methodology of the experiment

The experiment was based on a series of games that required two players to negotiate. Its conclusion can be associated with what is known in game theory as zero-sum games, this is a situation in which the gain or loss of one participant is balanced with the losses or gains of the other participants..

The experiment starts from the fact that there are two approaches that individuals have when they enter into a negotiation: it can be cooperatively or competitively. The choice of one or the other style generates conflicts between the parties.

For conflicts to have a solution, both one and the other approach are necessary. Morgan Deutsch investigated the use of threats and how people communicate when it comes to interpersonal negotiation.

First experiment

In the first experiment, two participants are asked to imagine that they both run a trucking company. The objective, like that of any company, is to make money.

To achieve this, the company will have to take as many products as possible to a certain destination in the shortest possible time. Each player will have a single starting point, a single destination and a single competitor.

They both have the same problem and they both have two routes they can take from the start to the destination. One is the short route and the other is the long route. The short route, which is the fastest way to get to the destination, is one-way.

Only one of the participants can travel it. This is where interpersonal negotiation comes into play. This will not be direct, since each of the participants will only be able to see the control room for their own truck.

In the image used there is a gate at the end of each opponent's one-way path. This will be the means of communication between the participants. Each of them will be able to control their own door, which can only be closed when their truck is on the main route. This serves as a threat.

In the first round of tests, both are likely to close their doors forcing both trucks to go the route that is longer, causing a major loss on the trip as a whole..

In the next series of tests, the trucks can be found head-on on the one-way road, forcing them to reverse. So they lose again wasting time and money.

The second experiment

In the second experiment, communication comes into play. For this Deutsch and Krauss allowed the use of headphones. Everything else stays the same, but now the participants could talk to each other.

Even with headphones, the result was not significantly different from the results of the first experiment when there was no direct means of communication between the two. Communication, did not actually help the two of them achieve a better mutual understanding.

Apparently, people's competitive orientation was stronger than their motivation to communicate.

According to the subjects, it was difficult to actually communicate with the other person to think that both are strangers to each other, so the conclusion was that the competitive orientation is stronger than the motivation to communicate..

The third experiment: forced communication

Following this, they did a third forced communication experiment. Here they did have to communicate in a forced way.

This led to more positive results. From this it is deduced that the competitiveness of individuals tends to overcome effective communication between both parties, since neither party wants to be on the losing side..

However, forced communication did not have much of an effect on the no threat condition compared to having none, and at the same time it did not improve the bilateral threat condition as much..

It seems that people are so competitive when they both feel threatened that it is difficult to prevent both parties from losing out..


Some of the findings of Deutsch and Krauss in their study were as follows:

People's competitiveness tends to outweigh effective communication between both parties, as both parties do not want to be on the losing side.

The cooperative style of negotiation is characterized by:

  • Effective communication where ideas are verbalized, group members pay attention to each other and at the same time accept their ideas and are then influenced by them. These groups tend to have fewer problems communicating and understanding each other..
  • Kindness, helpfulness, and little obstruction in conversations. Members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group and its solutions, as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members.
  • Coordination of effort, division of labor, task orientation, order of discussion, and high productivity tend to exist in cooperative groups..
  • The feeling of agreeing with the ideas of others and a sense of basic similarity in beliefs and values, as well as confidence in one's own ideas and in the value that other members attribute to those ideas, are obtained in cooperative groups.
  • The will to enhance the power of the other to achieve the objectives. As the capacities of others are strengthened in a cooperative relationship, they are strengthened and vice versa.
  • Defining conflicting interests as a mutual problem that must be resolved through a collaborative effort facilitates the recognition of the legitimacy of the interests of others and the need to seek a solution that meets the needs of all. This tends to limit the scope of conflicting interests and sustain attempts. Influencing each other into decent forms of persuasion.

The competitive style of negotiation, on the other hand, is characterized by:

  • The obstruction of communication for the conflicting parties tries to gain an advantage by misleading each other through false promises and misinformation. Communication is ultimately reduced when the parties realize they cannot trust the other.
  • Obstruction and lack of help lead to negative mutual attitudes and suspicion of the intentions of others. The perceptions of the other about the other tend to focus on the negative qualities of the person and ignore the positive aspects.
  • The parties cannot effectively divide their work and end up duplicating efforts. When they divide it, they continually feel the need to check the work of others.
  • Continual disagreement and critical rejection of ideas reduce participants' self-confidence as well as trust in other parties.
  • The parties in conflict seek to increase their own power and therefore see any increase in the power of the other party as a threat..
  • The competitive process fosters the idea that conflict resolution can only be imposed by one side on the other. This orientation also encourages the use of coercive tactics such as psychological or physical threats and / or violence. This process tends to expand the range of disputed issues and turns the conflict into a power struggle, with each side trying to win directly. This type of escalation elevates the motivational importance of the conflict for the participants and makes them more likely to accept a mutual disaster rather than a partial defeat or compromise..

After reading what we have told you about interpersonal negotiation and Morgan Deutsch's experiment, surely now you will know how to get more out of this type of communication.


  • "Cooperation and Competition" by Morton Deutsch, in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, eds. Morton Deutsch and Peter Coleman (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000)

Yet No Comments