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Creating Data on International Negotiation Strategies, Alternatives and Outcomes

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If greater efforts could be invested in generating uniform data on the international negotiation process, I would nominate at least three key dimensions for fresh attention: strategies, alternatives, and outcomes. Although these are not the only interesting dimensions, better empirical knowledge about them is surely central. Strategies can be conceived of as sets of observable behavior that vary along a continuum from purely distributive, through mixed, to purely integrative tactics. This continuum could bring greater order to the many ways in which the notion of strategy has been used. A second worthwhile indicator would estimate the value of the party's best alternative to negotiated agreement and changes in that value. Theoretically, behavior and ultimately outcomes depend critically on the parties' alternatives outside the talks. Third, I believe negotiation researchers need to place a high priority on pinning down the difference that the process makes, net of other influences, to the outcome. Measuring gains and losses requires first choosing a conceptual reference point for the comparison. Data creation projects such as these would face theoretical and technical dilemmas that would demand careful thought. But if the necessary resources were invested, researchers would be better able to test hypotheses about negotiation on evidence from actual experience, in addition to laboratory evidence.

Affiliations: 1: School of International Relations, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0043, USA (E-mail:


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