WIP Papers–Hunger Games

To follow up on an offer we made at the Works-in-Progress conference, particularly for new scholars, here is an introduction to Lauren Newell, a new professor at Ohio Northern University.  Her paper that she presented at the conference was terrific and I am very much looking forward to the research.  Here is how she describes it:

Hunger Games: The Impact of Food and Hunger on Negotiation 

The question of whether hunger is helpful in negotiations is one that has generated a multitude of opinions, but little empirical data.  Some people prefer to keep the parties well fed in the belief that this fosters optimism, energy, and creativity.  Others opt to delay meals as long as possible because they view hunger as a helpful motivator that encourages quicker compromises and promotes efficient settlements.  This paper will identify connections between the science of hunger and of self-control and the anecdotal experiences of those who believe food plays a positive role in negotiation.  It will then seek to demonstrate that negotiating while hungry is disadvantageous by adopting and testing the hypotheses that: (1) hungry negotiators will conduct shorter and more contentious negotiations than non-hungry negotiators; and (2) non-hungry negotiators will achieve more joint gains and will have greater short-term and long-term satisfaction with the outcomes of their negotiations than will hungry negotiators.  Finally, this paper will examine the ethical implications of providing or denying food in order to gain a negotiating advantage.

Her previous research focused on Disney and can be found here:

Happiness at the House of Mouse: How Disney Negotiates to Create the “Happiest Place on Earth”http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2109491 

Mickey Goes to France: A Case Study of the Euro Disneyland Negotiationshttp://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2235699

 Happy to welcome Lauren to the community of ADR scholars and looking forward to her future contributions!


14 thoughts on “WIP Papers–Hunger Games”

  1. I look forward to seeing this research. I think we all know anecdotally that we can get cantankerous and unfocused when hungry, and Ms. Newell’s hypothesis will hopefully find sound empirical backing for the notion that negotiating hungry is a bad idea.
    Mullainathan and Shafir’s recent book “scarcity” seems to echo her ideas about hunger. In their studies, hunger (and other worries like money) seems to cause a narrowing of the mind’s ability to focus, causing what they call a shrinking of “bandwidth.” Their research indicates both a drop in cognitive ability and a loss of executive function. In other words people have a tendency to give in to temptation faster, and generally operate with less than their full intelligence. Monday morning quarterbacking your own decisions you made while hungry will probably leave you with regrets.
    Hunger and financial independence from the dispute might also be reason to want a well fed and financially independent advocate on hand in mediations to ensure the parties have the best chance to find creative and integrative solutions. I look forward to the research!

  2. This is a very interesting concept for an article, and I think the general conclusion makes a great deal of sense, intuitively. But at the same time, it seems like there are a great deal of other related issues. I’m not sure that I agree with the tension established between a quick negotiation and creative outcomes. I think it is important for negotiation to be efficient and creative, so how can we use food to balance those interests? I think food choice may also be a huge consideration in this sort of situation. If you were to provide too much food, or food that is too filling, maybe the parties will be too full and become too lazy and become incapable of working efficiently. Or equally problematic, if food choice led to gastric distress, that only creates more barriers to efficiency and reaching a conclusion. Again, I think the topic is very interesting, and I think it opens the door to all these other issues.

  3. Being a firm believer in the power of food, this topic is very interesting to me. I know from personal experience that a lack of food can have serious effects on mental fortitude. In a negotiation context then, it is understandable that providing food or failing to do so could change the settlement process. To add to what has been previously noted, there might be other factors that play a role as well. For example, a small of sleep coupled with no food might create drastically different results, so perhaps something to keep in mind. I look forward to hearing how the results pan out.

  4. When I consider the effect of hunger in the negotiation process the result seems almost obvious. Personally, I often make decisions in haste, whether they are for the better or not, when I know that I am eating a meal soon and/or if I am starving. I am so glad that professionals in the field are finally considering this potential effect on negotiation results. I am wondering which side would tend to gain from the strategic use of food or lack thereof. Does a well-fed group of negotiators come to a better result than a group of starving negotiators? How efficient can we really be when we are hungry? How creative can we really be when we are satisfied from a delicious meal? I hope we will soon have answers to these questions that are backed up by scholarly research.

  5. I find this topic to be extremely interesting, and I look forward to reading more about Lauren’s research. I agree with her that hunger can play a part in negotiation. Food seems to be such a driving force in our society, and can definitely affect an individual’s mood and energy. I also believe that hunger can be a major distraction for many people. Regardless, I think that hunger can be used in a multitude of ways to affect the behavior of negotiators, both positively and negatively. Like the author of the previous comment, I too would be interested to know whether hunger affects the quality of settlements reached in negotiation, in addition to the parties’ behavior.

  6. This study seems quite interesting to me in two regards. First, I hadn’t ever thought of the issue of hunger in a negotiation. There are tons of seemingly more important things to worry about in a negotiation, so it seems like a simple trivial matter. However, when being hungry interrupts or abbreviates the negotiation to such an extent as to jeopardize the quality, it truly becomes a major issue.

    Second, the ethical concerns this study seeks to address are particularly fascinating. In negotiation, each side seeks to maintain competitive advantages against the other. But would that really involve denying food? Or are the ethical concerns simply regarding leaving the other party slightly peckish so as to slightly annoy and throw the other side off their game? How would we view this in comparison to other such techniques, like turning off the A/C or seating the opposing side in a squeaky chair? Is the subject of hunger in this regard different because of its potential for more serious concerns?

  7. I think this study is particularly interesting. Food can impact different aspects of the body and the mind. As a person whose reacts highly when I don’t eat, I look forward to see how others are impacted by hunger and non-hunger. As mentioned previously, the body can react in specific way to hunger and it can distract people for what they are supposed to do. Hunger can also impact the mind. Think of eating can be very distracting and can impact negotiation and any ADR processes. This study will be very interesting. I would also like to see how lawyers and others will react to the results and how these results could impact future tactics and strategies prior to entering negotiation process.

  8. Thank you all for your feedback! Like several of you, I find myself to be a less effective-and far crankier- negotiator when I’m hungry. The research behind “Scarcity” sounds similar to work done by Roy Baumeister and his colleagues on willpower. They link low blood glucose (which may itself be correlated with hunger) to impaired self-control, including the ability to concentrate, regulate emotions, control impulses, and perform other executive functions. As several commenters have noted, there are a number of confounding variables potentially at play in this experiment, like sleep deprivation, quality of the food consumed, etc. My goal is to control for these to the extent possible, though some (particularly sleep deprivation) may also be the basis of future research. As for the tension between speed and creativity, my prediction is that most hungry people will tend to want to conclude the negotiation as quickly as possible so they can address their hunger. This could be a good thing insofar as it promotes efficiency, particularly in a negotiation involving primarily distributive issues. I think where the problems potentially come into play is in negotiations that have more opportunities for joint gains. I expect that hungry negotiators may not have the patience to explore those opportunities and may ultimately miss out on joint gains, which is part of why I predict that non-hungry negotiators will tend to achieve better settlement outcomes and will be happier with them. I look forward to conducting the research to see if the results support my hypotheses!

  9. I find this topic to be very interesting, and I would imagine it is a strategy that is used far more than we often think. I could very easily see this as a strategy to be used when you feel as though the other side is strong in their standing and less likely to compromise. Not only in the context of negotiation and mediation, but anytime one side is seeking to reach and agreements with another party. I know myself, I am more easily persuaded, and more likely to agree to something I would not otherwise, if my mind is more focused on food and being hungry. If I sat down at the negotiation table, and could only focus on what I was going to eat for lunch, and how hungry I was, I could see myself looking to resolve the situation more quickly than normal, so I could get out of there and eat.

    Furthermore, it is not only your stomach that is going “unnourished” but your brain as well. Subconsciously your brain, which is hungry and focused on other things is less driven to the current situation and essentially multi-tasking to also focus on its hunger. Just like they say, don’t go shopping hungry, don’t seek to negotiate when your mind is focused on something else that you are looking to solve first, such as hunger.

  10. The idea for research into the effects of food during negotiation seems like a very interesting topic. We have all experienced the physical aspects of lack or surplus of food and how it effects our behavior so I would be more interested in this research in a sociological way.
    It is common custom for may cultures to offer food when guests are invited as a showing of hospitality. It would be interesting to see the results of not providing food for the opposing party. The lack of food might indicate to the party that the other side will be hostile in their negotiations or will be less hospitable. In the opposite scenario, a party that supplies food to the opposing party may give off the impression that they are more hospitable and more willing to cooperate during the negotiations.
    If I walked into a negotiation where the party setting up the negotiation provided my client and I with food, I would more than likely have the impression that they will be more willing to discuss and more accommodating, perhaps leading to more effective negotiations. In the opposite scenario, where no food was provided I would have a different feeling. Circling back to this article—the physical effects of lack of food—I would assume they would not be accommodating and would be trying to take advantage of my client and I by trying to exploit our hunger in attempts to have a quick and advantageous result for themselves. Personally when I get hungry I am agitated and more willing to concede on certain things in order to get food. So this should be interesting research.

  11. The impact of food and hunger during negotiations is a really interesting topic. Just judging from my own personal experience, I do think that negotiating while hungry is disadvantageous to the parties. Hunger does have an effect on someone’s mood and behaviors. I know when I’m hungry, I get cranky and listening to someone else talk or trying to negotiate is not something I want to be doing. It’s plausible that hungry negotiators will conduct shorter negotiations, just to get it over with, which will lead to the parties not thoroughly thinking things through and getting creative in coming up with integrative solutions. I’m interested to see the results of her research!

  12. I think the hypotheses of this article will prove correct. In everyday life it is evident that being hungry is counterproductive. From personal experience, I can say that if I’m hungry I can’t study, do homework, or concentrate in class. Although I cannot speak for everyone, I know most of my friends experience these same issues when they are hungry. Therefore, it seems intuitive that these same problems would arise in negotiation if the parties are hungry. Additionally, I know if I’m hungry it becomes difficult to work with other people. This probably would become an issue in a negotiation session too. As they become hungrier, it seems that parties would be less amenable to a compromise because they would not be able to work together. Even if hunger pushes parties to an agreement, it is unlikely that the agreement will result in an “expansion of the pie.” More than likely one party will “win” and the other will “lose” the negotiation. Also, while it may seem far-fetched, if hunger pushes parties to an agreement, the “losing” proven may claim duress, which if proven would invalidate the agreement. I’m not sure if a court would find duress under these circumstances, but it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. For the reasons listed above, I believe that it is better for parties of negotiations to not be hungry during the negotiations. Being well fed should lead to more amenable talks during negotiation sessions and fairer final agreements.

  13. I think this is an interesting topic. Personally, I would rather provide food to encourage and reward the good efforts of the parties than using hunger in hopes they will resolve the dispute more quickly. Food is a major part of many social and business gatherings and in most cases I think it helps people to relax and start talking. If done properly, I think food could be used to break through some of the ice, which may be preventing parties from resolving their disputes. Perhaps the neutral could ask the parties about food preferences before beginning the negotiation. Maybe they could share a favorite food or recipe. The neutral could start a conversation about the food on the table, rather than the topic at issue, and could transition into a discussion on the issues once the parties have started speaking. This could work particularly well if the food triggers fond memories—perhaps of a time when the parties were more favorable toward each other. Although it may not work in all cases, I think it could be a successful approach used in some cases.
    Food is often used as a social lubricant, even if we don’t realize it. We use it to communicate and bring people together in many pleasant situations as well as some that are uncomfortable. Either way, I certainly think that providing food for parties involved in a negotiation is a far better approach than depriving parties of food in hopes they will become weary. Negotiation doesn’t need to be unpleasant to be effective. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good meal?

  14. I liked this topic a lot because it was something that I had never thought about before. In class, we discussed why it is important for a lawyer to eat before a negotiation, but I had never thought about the ethical implications of providing or not providing food for an opponent to gain an advantage during a negotiation. Moreover, it was a little unsettling at first to think about all the subtle ways that a party might gain an advantage during a negotiation. Although I would likely see right through a free fillet mignon during the middle of negotiation, the thought had never crossed my mind that an opponent might try to starve me into an agreement. Therefore, I am interested to learn about Professor Newell’s findings, and I am specifically looking forward to her thoughts on the ethical implications.

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