Restoring intuition to the negotiation table? Cognitive processes in negotiation decision-making an investigation of negotiators in the EU institutions
thesisposted on 04.11.2014, 16:41 by Pierre Andre Gilles Debaty
What are the cognitive processes used by negotiators in uncertain and complex environments? What are the task environments which may induce negotiators' cognition towards intuition and quasirationality? These are the questions raised in this thesis. The dominant negotiation research literature, on the basis of insights from Bounded Rationality theory and the school of cognitive illusions, replies to it by normatively prescribing the use of analysis and by advising against the use of intuition and quasirationality. In the same time, there is a dearth of literature and empirical data about this topic with professional negotiators in real negotiation tasks. Facing such a situation, this thesis reviews the available literature and highlight gaps in our current understanding of the cognitive processes of negotiators in uncertain and complex task environments, and of intuition in particular. The thesis then builds on this discussion to develop the analytical framework based on Social Judgment Theory's insights. This framework in turn guided the subsequent qualitative investigation, through the use of the explicitation interviewing technique, of the cognitive processes of professional negotiators in the EU institutions, particularly in complex and uncertain task environments. Through this empirically grounded and theoretically informed approach, this thesis highlights the widespread use of non analytical cognitive modes (intuition and quasirationality) in some key negotiation tasks, the importance of trust in such a case to ensure a match between the cognitive mode used and that induced by the task, and, conversely, the impact of political expediency in the choice by negotiators of a cognitive mode different from that induced by the task. Last, it highlights the possible cognitive conflicts resulting from the use of different cognitive modes by agents and principals. This thesis suggests that the mainstream negotiation literature fails to give enough importance to the cognitive impact of tasks and to the use of non analytical cognitive modes in negotiation tasks. In particular, it does not factor in that, in certain tasks, negotiators may not have any other cognitive choice, but also for good cognitive reasons, than using intuition and quasirationality. As a consequence, the thesis makes an argument in favour of a more systematic attention to the cognitive impact of tasks in negotiation, and concludes that further research on this topic is essential to arrive at a better understanding of how tasks influence negotiator's cognition , how and to what extent a cognitive match between the cognition used and that induced by the task can impact the outcome of a negotiation.