President Donald J. Trump’s ultimatum, issued last Thursday to Republican lawmakers, to force a vote on the proposed health care bill may or may not have contributed to his reputation as a tough negotiator. But the subsequent collapse of the bill has certainly eroded a substantial amount of political capital.
Was the ultimatum the right move? The 2003 research paper “Time pressure and closing of the mind in negotiation” by Carsten De Dreu, Professor of Psychology at Leiden University and Behavioral Economics at the University of Amsterdam, provides a stimulating perspective. Based on data from two experimental studies, Prof. De Dreu shows that negotiators rely more on stereotypes about their opponents, and are less likely to revise their incorrect fixed-pie (i.e. win-lose) assumptions about the negotiation under high time pressure, compared to low time pressure.
Apply this to the health care bill negotiations: under the ultimatum, House Republicans would likely have regarded fellow representatives from opposing factions of their party less favorably, and would likely have construed any concessions they personally contemplated as a political loss for themselves and a political gain for their opponents. This is fertile ground for political in-fighting but not for collaboration and productive policy making.
Here are Prof. De Dreu’s conclusions from his study:
Much of our success in negotiation depends on our motivation and ability to process new and relevant information about the negotiation task, including the opposing individual. Real or self-imposed time pressure may hamper success because it reduces our motivation to process information in a systematic and deliberate way, making us more likely to rely on unfounded assumptions about the other’s intent and the other’s preferences and priorities. […] asking for a time-out may be seen as a sign of weakness. [However] the current research strongly suggests that doing so improves the quality of the negotiation process and results in more enduring, mutually beneficial and integrative agreements.
This post was originally published by the author here on LinkedIn, 27 March 2017.