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Does Anger Influence Negotiations?

Becoming agitated and angry may help your cause if you are negotiating with European Americans, but in negotiations with East Asians, anger may be counterproductive.

At least so says a new study on how people from different cultures react to anger in negotiations.

Traditionally, research on negotiations has shown that anger is a good strategy – it gets you larger concessions than other emotions, like happiness, or no emotions. But these studies have mostly been carried out in Western populations, says Hajo Adam, of the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) in France, who coauthored the new study with William Maddux of INSEAD and Aiwa Shirako of the University of California – Berkeley.

Adam noticed differences in emotions at the institute where he works.

“INSEAD is very diverse, with people from all over the world. I noticed that sometimes people get angry, and you see that people react differently to that. I was wondering whether a lot of those different reactions might be explained by cultural backgrounds.”

Adam has a special interest in negotiations, so he decided to study how intercultural differences in the ways that people react to emotion expressions affect negotiation outcomes.

For example, when President Clinton took an aggressive, angry stance in trade negotiations with Japan in the early 1990s, the Japanese were annoyed, and negotiation largely failed.

The experiment used volunteers at the University of California – Berkeley. Half were Americans of European ethnicity and half were Asian or Asian American. Each student took part in a negotiation on a computer.

They were told that they were negotiating with another participant, but they were actually negotiating with a computer program.

The student was supposed to be selling a mobile phone, and making deals on issues like the warranty period and price. In some negotiations, the computer said it was angry about the negotiation; in others, it did not mention emotion.

European Americans made larger concessions to an angry opponent than to a nonemotional opponent. Asians and Asian Americans, however, made smaller concessions if their opponent was angry rather than nonemotional.

A subsequent experiment suggested that this may happen because of cultural norms about whether it’s appropriate to get mad. This experiment started with telling the participants whether or not expressing anger was acceptable during the study.

Asians and Asian Americans made greater concessions to an angry opponent if they were told that expressing anger was acceptable, and European Americans were less likely to make concessions if they were told that anger was unacceptable.

When anger expressions are perceived as inappropriate, “People tend to react negatively. They no longer want to concede,” says Adam.

“They may even want to shut down and potentially penalize the counterpart for acting inappropriately.”

“I think what’s important is that one person expressing emotions really affects another person’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior,” says Adam.

“And these reactions to emotional displays can critically depend on a person’s cultural background.”

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Does Anger Influence Negotiations?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Does Anger Influence Negotiations?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 21 Jul 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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