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Negotiation Offers and the Search for Agreement


  • We thank Jeanne Brett, Don Moore, Sally Blount, Elizabeth Mannix, Kevin Rockmann, Howard Raiffa, and Francesca Gino for comments on versions of this manuscript. This project was partially funded by the Dean’s Research Fund, Tepper School of Business. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Academy of Management Meetings, Honolulu, Hawaii, August, 2005.

Laurie R. Weingart, David A. Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, U.S.A.; e-mail:


A key component of negotiation dynamics is the search for mutually beneficial agreements, and offer exchange is a key element of that process. Rooted in the tradition of information processing psychology, we develop a theoretical model that conceives of negotiation as the collaborative search of a complex offer space. Negotiators simplify and coordinate search via information contained in offer exchanges, isolating subregions of the offer space for potential solutions. We suggest that early search is more exploratory and primarily influenced by the value of offers; later search is more focused on refinement and is influenced by the content of offers. In that, search by value is substantially more difficult than search by content, and parties seek value through communicating about content. Important information about the negotiators’ perspectives is revealed in comprehensive offers, and critical insight into this search process can be gained by examining the pattern of comprehensive offers.