The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators.The Science of Settlement
American Law Institute/American Bar Association
208 pp., $49
Barry Goldman's book The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators focuses on heuristics heu·ris·tic
1. Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem: , or mental shortcuts See Win Shortcuts. that help us make decisions. Goldman argues that the heuristics that were at play in our prehistoric ancestors are so hardwired into our brains that they still shape how we act and react as lawyers and negotiators.
As Goldman explains: "Thinking is expensive. It takes a lot of blood to run the brain, and it takes a lot of calories to circulate the blood. Thinking takes time and attention away from activities that evolution thinks are more important.... So we avoid thinking when we can. We use heuristics instead."
The book examines many heuristics that affect us today in the context of negotiation. They include the affirmation bias (our tendency to agree with one another, or "go along to get along"), the confirmation bias (the tendency to overweigh o·ver·weigh
tr.v. o·ver·weighed, o·ver·weigh·ing, o·ver·weighs
1. To have more weight than.
2. To weigh down excessively; overburden or oppress. evidence that tends to support what we already believe and to underweigh or ignore evidence that does not), the endowment effect The endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion) is a hypothesis that people value a good or service more once their property right to it has been established. In other words, people place a higher value on objects they own relative to objects they do not. (the tendency to overvalue o·ver·val·ue
tr.v. o·ver·val·ued, o·ver·val·u·ing, o·ver·val·ues
To assign too high a value to: overvalued the painting. things that are our own), the fixed-pie perspective (the belief that the totality of benefits to be distributed among participants is like a pie that cannot be enlarged, so every piece our opponent gets is a piece that we don't get), the fundamental attribution error In attribution theory, the fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or overattribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while (attributing a different and usually more admirable cause to our own behavior than to someone else's behavior), and loss aversion In prospect theory, loss aversion refers to the tendency for people strongly to prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are as twice much psychologically powerful as gains. (the tendency to give undue weight to losses so that they loom larger than gains).
Of course, we humans have evolved. Or have we?
Goldman explains that the mental shortcuts that helped our prehistoric ancestors survive are alive and well today. Running away from a stranger (the similarity-attraction effect) or sharing food only with those who previously shared with you (reciprocity) made sense then, and the same heuristics affect our negotiation tactics as attorneys. We feel comfortable negotiating with people who look like us, talk like us, or like the same things we like, and we punish low offers with high demands.
The book's goal "is to identify the biases, heuristics, and cognitive allusions that affect decision-making and negotiation. With that knowledge, we hope to prepare ourselves to work with the natural wiring of the brain rather than against it in formulating negotiating positions."
Goldman succeeds at this goal. His book is easy to read, as he approaches the subject in a light-handed, practical manner, not as an academic on arcane issues. One of the book's most entertaining aspects is his discussion of various psychological experiments that show the myriad biases and heuristics we deal with every day.
Each chapter is divided into one- to four-page sections that examine how a specific heuristic A method of problem solving using exploration and trial and error methods. Heuristic program design provides a framework for solving the problem in contrast with a fixed set of rules (algorithmic) that cannot vary.
1. or bias affects negotiation strategy. This format allows the reader to easily grasp each point in the context of negotiation.
The book is highly useful in evaluating how we react to certain stimuli in negotiations and how to anticipate those reactions in ourselves and our negotiation opponents. Whether you are a new lawyer just beginning to develop your negotiating skills or a seasoned, grizzled griz·zled
1. Partly gray or streaked with gray: a grizzled beard.
2. Having fur or hair streaked or tipped with gray. negotiator, you will find a lot of value in this book. It is full of interesting information and ideas on identifying knee-jerk reactions that may--or may not--improve your negotiating position.
J.R. WHALEY practices law in Alexandria, Louisiana Alexandria is a city in Louisiana and the parish seat of Rapides Parish.   It lies on the south bank of the Red River in almost the exact geographic center of the state. .