Dateline: August, 2022, Issue 1

How do deception expectations affect negotiations?

Opportunities for deception are common in negotiations, and expectations about negotiation deception matter.


Mason and colleagues (2018) conducted eight studies on negotiation deception. Five studies identified the nature of negotiators' expectations about negotiation deception with different and diverse groups of participants (MBA students, non-profit executives, Turkish executives, Chinese students, general American public). Three studies tested how negotiators' expectations about others' ethical practices influence negotiators' own decisions to be deceptive or honest in negotiations.

In five studies, participants first rank-ordered three different views of negotiation deception as to which best matched their own view, after which they reported the percentage of other people they thought would endorse each of the three views:

Three studies employed simulated negotiations, where participants were negotiators with counterparts. These studies explored whether believing that other people consider it appropriate to rely on deceptive negotiation tactics leads negotiators to deceive. The simulations were both single issue and multi-issue; distributed, integrative and compatible; and in the forms of surveys, exchanged emails and live online chats. In two of the three negotiation simulation studies, rather than participants reporting their expectations about others' negotiation views, participants instead were told the extent to which other people generally endorse deceptive tactics in negotiation: participants were told that 65% of other people ranked the gamer view either as (1) first or second, or as (2) last.


Participants expected that others' attitudes about deception in negotiation reflected their own attitudes. For example, in Study 1b, more gamers thought other people were gamers (47%) than pragmatists (28%) or idealists (25%); and more pragmatists (43%) thought other people were pragmatists than gamers (27%) or idealists (30%); and more idealists (39%) thought other people were idealists than pragmatists (36%) or gamers (25%). Similar results were replicated across all 8 studies. Said differently, participants projected their own attitudes about the appropriateness of deception in negotiation onto others.

Participants additionally had pessimistic expectancies about others' ethics in negotiation. In Study 1a, for example, participants estimated that 33% of other people would endorse a gamer view, while only 18% actually did so. In Study 1b, participants estimated that 28% of people would endorse a gamer view of deception in negotiations but only 7% actually did. Similar results were replicated across all 8 studies. Said differently, participants expected other people to be significiantly more deceptive than they actually were.

In the simulated negotiations, a sizeable majority of negotiators behaved deceptively, even though few people personally endorsed dishonesty in negotations. Participants' expectancies - both projection and pessimism - about negotiation deception affected their own negotiation behavior.

The closer participants ranked their own view of negotiation as a game to first place, the more likely they were to have misled or deceived their counterparts in the negotiation simulations. Independently, the more prevalent participants thought the gamer view was among other people, the more likely the participants were to be dishonest. Participants who self-identified with the gamer view and assumed that view was popular among others were especially likely to be misleading or dishonest in the simulated negotiations.

In the simulated negotiations, participants altered their negotiation behavior based on the provided normative information about others' views of negotiation deception. Participants informed that a majority of other people were gamers were significantly more likely to negotiate deceptively (76% and 86% in Studies 3 and 4, respectively) than participants informed that a minority of other people were gamers (62% and 46% in Studies 3 and 4, respectively).


Negotiators' expectancies about negotiation deception exhibit both projection and pessimism. Negotiators overly assume their own attitudes about deception are shared by other negotiators and are overly pessimistic about other people's ethical standards in negotiations.

Negotators who believe the endorsement of deceptive negotiation tactics is widespread are more likely to employ these deceptive tactics themselves in negotiations.

Dishonesty in negotiation can be reduced by addressing the pessimistic beliefs negotiators have about others' willingness to embrace deceptive tactics.

SourceMason, M.F., Wiley, E.A. & Ames, D.R. (2018). From belief to deceit: How expectancies about others' ethics shape deception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, pp. 239-248.