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Cognitive processing and affect predict negotiators’ post-adversity subjective and economic outcomes

Mara Olekalns (Melbourne Business School, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Philip Leigh Smith (Melbourne School of Psychological Science, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 8 January 2021

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




Negotiators are offered limited advice on how to overcome adverse events. Drawing on resilience and coping literatures, this study aims to test the impact of three cognitive processing strategies on negotiators’ subjective and economic value following adversity.


Participants completed two negotiations with the same partner. The difficulty of the first negotiation was manipulated and tested how cognitive processing of this experience influenced subjective and economic outcomes in the second negotiation.


Subjective and economic outcomes were predicted by negotiators’ affect, their cognitive processing strategy and negotiation difficulty. In difficult negotiations, as positive affect increased, proactive processing decreased self-satisfaction. As negative affect increased, affective processing increased satisfaction with relationship and process.

Research limitations/implications

Cognitive processing of adversity is most effective when emotions are not running high and better able to protect relationship- and process-oriented satisfaction than outcome-oriented satisfaction. The findings apply to one specific type of adversity and to circumstances that do not generate strong emotions.


This research tests which of three cognitive processing strategies is best able to prevent the aftermath of a difficult negotiation from spilling over into subsequent negotiations. Two forms of proactive processing are more effective than immersive processing in mitigating the consequences.



Olekalns, M. and Smith, P.L. (2021), "Cognitive processing and affect predict negotiators’ post-adversity subjective and economic outcomes", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 469-492.



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