Get access

Conflict Frames and the Use of Deception: Are Competitive Negotiators Less Ethical?1


  • 1

    The authors thank the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation for its support. We also thank Diana Diaz-Luong and Roxanne Campbell for their research assistance.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Maurice E. Schweitzer, 566 JMHH, OPIM, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail:


This article examines the relationship among conflict orientation, competitive bargaining, and unethical behavior. We report results from a negotiation study (N= 111 dyads) involving a 7-action prisoner's dilemma. We coded participants’ conflict frames and their use of both competitive ethical tactics and deception. Our results demonstrate that negotiators’ conflict frames influence the use of both types of behavior. While prior work has conceptualized competitive ethical tactics as distinct from unethical tactics (e.g., deception), our results suggest that in practice negotiators who adopt a competitive orientation use both types of tactics in tandem. We also examine the influence of deception on the bargaining process and outcomes. We find that the use of deception significantly distorts targets’ beliefs, influences targets’ decisions, increases deceivers’ profits, and harms targets’ profits. We discuss theoretical implications of these results and offer prescriptions for curtailing deception.