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Social contagion or strategic choice? The interpersonal effects of emotions during Chinese negotiations

Min Wang (International Business School, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing, China)
Yulan Han (School of Business, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)
Yiyi Su (School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai, China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 7 August 2017



This paper aims to explore how Chinese negotiators’ positive and negative emotions affect value claiming during dyadic negotiations and examine the influence of these aroused emotions on the recipient as well as the antecedents and consequents of such reactions.


Using a simulated face-to-face negotiation between buyers and sellers, the authors conducted an experiment based on the manipulation of the sellers’ emotions. About 280 undergraduates participated in a simulated negotiation. SPSS20.0 statistical analysis software was used to test the hypothesis.


The results indicated that the sellers who demonstrates negative emotions claimed more value than happy sellers (direct effect), and the perceived power disadvantage mediated this effect. Moreover, buyers in the happy dyads displayed a higher evaluation of their guanxi (relationship). This experiment also indicated that the sellers’ emotions (happiness or anger) evoked a reciprocal emotion in the buyers, supporting the social contagion perspective. More importantly, as emotion recipients, the buyers’ reactions exerted further influence on the outcomes (ripple effect); specifically, in the happy dyads, the buyers’ positive emotional reactions were negatively related to their individual gains. Finally, the buyers with low agreeableness were more likely to display negative emotional reactions.

Research limitations/implications

Negotiators should have an understanding of how emotions may shape conflict development and resolution via direct and ripple effects. In general, during Chinese negotiations, expressing anger is an effective negotiation tactic that incurs the expense of damaged relationships with counterparts.


The findings validated the impact of emotions in the Chinese negotiation context. Further, the paper extended the research by demonstrating the influence of emotions on the recipients’ reactions. Both the direct and ripple effect provided evidence for adopting the strategic choice perspective during negotiations.



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71472016; 71402052) and Beijing Foreign Studies University Young Innovative Research Team Support Plan (2015JT005).


Wang, M., Han, Y. and Su, Y. (2017), "Social contagion or strategic choice? The interpersonal effects of emotions during Chinese negotiations", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 463-478.



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