June 10, 2014
Angry Face Adds Weight To Negotiation Tactics
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Research has found that facial expressions can convey more information than verbal communication alone and a new Harvard University study has found that an angry glare can add effectiveness to a negotiator’s demands.
Published in Psychological Science, the study found that an angry glare adds additional gravity to a negotiator’s threat to walk away from the talks. The researchers also saw that the glared-at party tended to offer more money than they otherwise would have.
“Our facial expressions are relatively more difficult to control than our words,” said study author Lawrence Ian Reed, a psychologist from Harvard. He added that because facial expressions are harder to control, they are seen as a better indication of a person’s motivations.
“In this way, facial expressions can carry the weight of our words,” Reed said.
When two parties enter in to a negotiation, each party wants to walk away with their demands being met. However, each party wants their demands to be seen as reasonable – so as not to scare off their negotiating partner.
The researchers said they went into their study with the theory that an angry expression would add credibility to a person’s demands – and make it more believable that they would walk away if their demands weren’t met. The team also speculated that an angry glare would have no effect if the offer being made seemed reasonable to the other party.
To test their theories, the study team recruited 870 participants online and told them they would be playing a negotiation game in which they would give an offer on how to split a $1 sum. If a “responder” agreed to the split, each party would walk away with the amount they had agreed to receive. However, if the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement – neither party would receive any money.
Before making their proposition, each participant was shown a video threat that was said to come from the responder. The responder was actually a female actor, who was told to produce specific facial expressions in the video clips. One clip exhibited her making a neutral expression, while a different one showed her making an angry expression.
The videos went along with a written call for either a 50-50 split or a larger share of 70 percent, which would leave just 30 percent for the participant.
The researchers found that the responder’s facial expression did have a bearing on the amount proposed by the participant, but only when the responder asked for the larger share.
Facial expression had no impact on participants' offers when the responder asked for an equal share, as the researchers had expected. The study team also found that participants offered larger amounts in reaction to angry facial expressions even when they were informed that they belonged to a “typical responder,” as opposed to a specific partner.
The scientists said they were amazed at how robust the effect was, regardless of the experimental setting.
“We created our anger expression by filming a deliberately posed expression rather than a spontaneously emitted one,” Reed said. “We were surprised to find that the expression had an effect even though it was literally faked.”
He added that his team’s results are relevant to numerous everyday situations.
“The idea that bargaining offers are mediated in part by emotions and motivations speaks towards the importance of emotions and their expression in any bargaining situation,” Reed said. “These include not only the division of resources, but also in buying a car or house, and/or disciplining students or children.”