Predicting the Outcomes of Disputes: Consequences for Disputant Reactions to Procedures and Outcomes1


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    The authors are thankful for the assistance of the following students throughout this project: Brian Johnson, Timothy Keeler, Shelly Ruebens, and Adam Whiteman.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Larry Heuer, Department of Psychology, Barnard College, Columbia University, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027-6598; or LBH3@COLUMBIA.EDU.


Third parties in dispute settings often make predictions to disputants regarding the likely outcome of their dispute at arbitration. However, virtually no research has examined the impact of predictions on disputant satisfaction with dispute resolution procedures and outcomes. One explanation for the lack of attention to this variable may be that current theorizing regarding dispute resolution procedures is too narrowly stated to incorporate this procedural variation. Theories about predictability from nondispute settings are used to generate hypotheses regarding the consequences of such outcome prediction. In a laboratory setting, disputants prepared arguments in anticipation of an arbitration hearing. Prior to the arbitrator's decision, the experimenter read the disputants' arguments and made a prediction regarding the arbitrator's decision. Their arguments were then presented to an arbitrator who imposed a binding decision. Dependent measures include the disputants' anxiety while awaiting the arbitrator's decision, and their postdecision satisfaction with dispute resolution procedures and outcomes. Internal analyses support the hypothesis that outcome prediction has benefits for disputants' predecision coping, ratings of procedural fairness, and satisfaction judgments. Also, as hypothesized, correct predictions produced greater postdecision satisfaction with outcomes and decision-makers than did incorrect predictions.