How Emotions Work: An Analysis of the Social Functions of Emotional Expression in Negotiation

By Michael W. MorrisDacher Keltner
1999| Working Paper No. 1591

Behavioral research on negotation in recent years has been dominated by the decision making research paradigm, which accords a relatively narrow role to emotions. Decision making researchers have considered emotions primarily interms of how an individual’s positive or negative affect impacts (and usually impedes) his or her information processing. Drawing on recent advances in psychology and other fields, we propose an alternative perspective that highlights the social and functional aspects of emotional expression in negotiation. We conceptualize emotions as interpersonal communication systems that are triggered in response to basic problems in relationships. Emotions are viewed as strategies in that they are evoked by specific relational problems that arise in negotiations and their behavioral components often have consequences on a negotiation counterpart that resolve the relational problem. Form this social functional perspective, we draw insights concerning: a) the influence of specific emotions upon negotiation-related cognition and behavior; b) the transitions between qualitatively different phases within negotiations; and c) the ways in which negotiations are shaped by contextual variables such as culture and communication media.