Person Perception in the Heat of Conflict: Attributions About the Opponent and Conflict Resoution Preferences in Two Cultures

By Marilyn F. MorrisKwok LeungSheena Sethi
1995| Working Paper No. 1360

Procedural justice researchers have modeled decisions among conflict resolution procedures in terms of a disputant’s perceptions—the perception that a procedure is favorable and also that it is fair, that it offers control, and that it reduces animosity. We propose that a disputant’s perception of the character of her opponent in the conflict affects her preference for dispute resolution procedures. Drawing on the “Big 5” model of person perception, we hypothesized that a perception of the opponent as low in agreeableness and high in emotional instability should reduce the appeal of informal procedures (e.g., bargaining), which require close cooperation and contract with other disputant, but not of more formal procedures (e.g., inquisitorial adjudication), which put distance between the disputants. In a study of responses to a hypothetical conflict in the United States and Hong Kong, we found support for this hypothesis. Also supported was a second hypothesis that cultural differences in attributional tendencies contributes to the greater preference for informal procedures among Chinese than American disputants.