The effects of commitment to threats and promises upon bargaining behaviour and outcomes



The course of bargaining is determined in part by interdependent individuals exchanging messages so as to influence other's behaviour, and thereby to increase the likelihood of achieving outcomes consistent with their own goals. The communication of threats and promises are two major message strategies that are employed to influence the behaviour of others in a bargaining relationship. The present study examines the effects of players' level of commitment to these forms of message strategies upon behaviour in a duopoly bargaining task. Past research has oprationalized commitment in terms of the consistency with which an individual has followed through on threats or promises in the past. In the present research, Becker's (1960) concept of a side-bet is employed to provide an alternative means for defining and manipulating commitment. A side-bet obtains when either a threatener or a promiser posts a valued resource, say a bond, which they forfeit if they do not follow through on their stated threat or promise. The main expectations of the present study were that increased commitment to threat meassages would lead to more competitive behaviour and outcomes within a duopoly bargaining task, whereas increased commitment to promise messages would produce more cooperative behaviour and outcomes. Partial support for these major expectations, as well as confirmation of a number of secondary expectations, was obtained.