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Mental contrasting promotes integrative bargaining

Dan Kirk (New York University, New York, NY, USA)
Gabriele Oettingen (New York University, New York, NY, USA, and University of Hamburg, New York, NY, USA)
Peter M. Gollwitzer (New York University, New York, NY, USA, and University of Konstanz, New York, NY, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




This paper aims to test the impact of several self‐regulatory strategies on an integrative bargaining task.


Participants were randomly assigned to dyads and negotiated over the sale of a car. Before negotiating, participants were prompted to engage in one of three self‐regulation strategies, based upon fantasy realization theory (FRT): to mentally contrast a successful future agreement with the reality of bargaining, to exclusively elaborate on successful future agreement, or to exclusively elaborate on the reality of bargaining. Those in the control condition merely began the negotiation.


Mentally contrasting a successful future agreement with the reality of bargaining leads dyads to reach the largest and most equitable joint agreements, compared to dyads that elaborate only on successful future agreement, or on the reality of bargaining.

Research limitations/implications

Since it was found that mental contrasting promotes integrative agreement, it is important to learn more about the psychological processes that mediate and moderate this effect. Another related line of research would examine the application of the findings to other bargaining scenarios. One further future line of research should combine mental contrasting with planning strategies.


The findings of the paper have implications for both self‐regulation and negotiation research. The result that mental contrasting fosters integrative solutions reflects its potential to help negotiators effectively discriminate among feasible and unfeasible components of a multi‐faceted goal (integrative agreement). For negotiation research, the paper identifies an effective self‐regulatory strategy for producing high‐quality agreements.



Kirk, D., Oettingen, G. and Gollwitzer, P.M. (2011), "Mental contrasting promotes integrative bargaining", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 324-341.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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