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Third-Party Dispute Resolution in India and the United States1


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    Funding for this study was provided by the Department of Management, School of Accountancy, the Ponder Fund, and the Graduate School of the University of Missouri. The authors thank Felissa Lee, Chris Robert, and Sharon Wu for their assistance.

James A. Wall, Jr., Department of Management, University of Missouri–Columbia, Cornell Hall–UMC, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail:


This study investigates the dispute-resolution approaches of 50 Indian panchayats (a team of 5 male elders), 50 Indian elders, and 50 U.S. informal mediators. A literature review as well as preliminary interviews with Indian students in the United States (n = 90) and with villagers in India (n = 60) established that Indian villagers rely principally on a panchayat or male elder to handle their disputes. Our subsequent study of panchayats and elders in India indicated that they do manage disputes and that their approaches differ in several distinctive ways. Subsequent qualitative and quantitative comparisons of the Indian elders' techniques with those of the U.S. mediators indicated that Indian elders were more assertive in their approaches.