An Experimental Test of Motivational and Content Control on Dispute Mediation

William H. Ross, Jr.

The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 26, (1), 111-118.

Research examined the effects of two types of mediation techniques -- content control and motivational control -- on the likelihood of reaching agreement and on the type of agreement (integrative versus compromise) that was reached.  A 2 x 2 x 2 laboratory experiment was conducted with 86 pairs of male college students.  These students served as disputants in a negotiation experiment.  Trained mediators used either content control, in the form of narrowing the scope of discussion (present vs. absent), and/or motivational control, in the form of making the parties aware of additional costs of failing to settle the dispute (present vs. absent). The procedure (mediation vs. bargaining without a mediator) also was varied.  For the bargaining-only control groups, subjects received payoff tables that were comparable to the outcomes after the introduction of content or motivational control in the mediation groups.

When the mediators used content control, the number of multi-issue disputes that were resolved increased, relative to when the mediator did not use content control.  By contrast, for the equivalent bargaining-only conditions, the settlement rate was higher if the payoff tables did not correspond to the use of content control.

Content control within mediation also increased the likelihood of producing a compromise agreement and decreased the likelihood of an integrative agreement.  The probability of an integrative agreement was only 15.0% if the mediator used content control vs. 42.9% if he did not.  By contrast, in the equivalent-payoff bargaining-only control groups, the probability of an integrative agreement was about the same whether content control was used (27.8%) or not (33.3%).

The use of motivational control had no significant effects.

The implications of the results for mediation practice and future research are discussed.


This is an extended version of the abstract which appeared in the journal.


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