Carnegie Mellon University

Alan Montgomery

September 21, 2020

Research: Multiparty Negotiations and the Fixed Pie Perception

The study, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Baruch College, Northwestern University, and University of Arizona, was published earlier this year by Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

“Our results showed that multiparty negotiators do just as well as two-party negotiators at finding effective agreements,” explains Laurie R. Weingart, a Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “This is because the multiparty setting breaks the fixed pie assumption and as a result, multiparty negotiators use more cooperative strategies and respond to one another in more complex and effective ways.”

The researchers defined “fixed pie perceptions” as negotiators’ beliefs that the counterparty’s interests and priorities are in direct opposition to the negotiator’s own interests and priorities. Whether occurring in a dyadic or multiparty context, negotiations require participants to cooperate in order to reach an agreement. Disrupting this cooperation, however, is the premise that all parties must compete to get the best agreement possible for themselves. With each additional party comes additional motives and complexities, exacerbating chances of a mutually beneficial outcome. Or at least that has long been the assumption.

The researchers developed and tested a model contrasting dyadic and multiparty, multi-issue, mixed-motive negotiations, incorporating negotiators’ fixed pie perceptions and their use of strategy. They conducted three different studies, the first of which was a face-to-face negotiation study that tested the entire model. Participants negotiated in a dyad or a multiparty triad as the researchers measured their fixed pie perceptions following their preparations but before their negotiation.

The researchers found that dyadic negotiators’ fixed pie perceptions were stronger than those of multiparty negotiators and that dyadic and multiparty negotiators’ use of strategy varied significantly. Because fixed pie perceptions were weaker among multiparty negotiators, these negotiations rendered more cooperative strategies to respond to one another more efficiently.

The researchers then conducted two additional studies to rule out the possibility that cues in the first study led to the dyadic versus multiparty negotiators’ different fixed pie perceptions. These studies ultimately reconfirmed that dyadic negotiators harbored stronger fixed pie perceptions than multiparty negotiators and showed that such perceptions are associated with alignment of interests.

The researchers concluded that multiparty negotiations are more complex and cooperative than dyadic negotiations, which disrupts the fixed pie perception and prompts multiparty negotiators to use different strategies to reach agreements as efficiently as those of dyadic negotiators.


Summarized from an article in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, The “fixed” pie perception and strategy in dyadic versus multiparty negotiations, by Kern, Mary C. (Baruch College), Brett, Jeanne M. (Northwestern University), Weingart, Laurie R. (Carnegie Mellon University), and Eck, Chase S. (Arizona University). Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.