The Deutsch U0026 Krauss Experience: Cooperation And Competition

The most interesting thing about the Deutsch & Krauss experience is that it shows us how humans tend to see the other as a rival or a threat, when they share a common goal. Those who come to see it as an ally increase the likelihood that both parties will win.

Negotiation is an art that we all practice. It is not only related to the realm of business, but more particularly to the way in which we balance our obligations, our duties and the concessions that we make on a daily basis. The Deutsch & Krauss experience refers precisely to the negotiations and the models that determine them.

Researchers Moran Deutsch and Robert Krauss wanted to verify why the negotiations we undertake often fail. Thanks to the Deutsch and Krauss experience, it has been established that there are 2  factors which determine the success or failure in a negotiation. They are communication and threat.

The two researchers also succeeded in establishing that there are 2 styles for conducting a negotiation. The cooperative style and the competitive style:

  • In the first, we try to ensure that both parties achieve some benefit, although they have to give something away.
  • In the second, things are such that there are absolute winners and absolute losers. Let’s see how they came to these conclusions in the Deutsch and Krauss experiment.

The first Deutsch & Krauss experience

The first Deutsch & Krauss experience sets up a game with 2 people, who are bosses of a truck company. The goal is to make as many journeys as possible, between point A and point B. There are two paths: a short and a long one. However, the shortest route is one-way and only one truck can use it at a time.

At the end of the shorter road there is a gate. This will remain closed until the truck leaves to reach its starting point. The 2 players are unable to communicate with each other. They must interpret the actions of the other according to his way of playing.

In the first set of experiments, the result was that the participants manipulated the game with the aim of blocking the options of their opponents. They used the gate as a means to force their rival to use the longer route and thus gain the advantage. By playing this way, both players got only small profits.

The second and third Deutsch & Krauss experiments

In the second part of the Deutsch & Krauss experiment, the rules hardly changed. However, headphones were introduced. This allowed the 2 players to be able to communicate with each other to make the game more fluid. However, despite this possibility, players did not use it. The result was generally the same as in the first experiment.

The third Deutsch & Krauss experiment introduced a new element. From that moment on, the players had to communicate with each other to be able to advance in the game.  What they said did not matter, the important thing was that they maintain communication.

The result of the third experiment was mixed. In some cases, compulsory communication has facilitated the concertation of certain minimal agreements, which have allowed everyone to make a profit. In other cases, it had no effect. We simply observed the same result as in the 2 previous experiments.

Conclusions of the experiment

Thanks to the Deutsch & Krauss experience, we were able to establish that there were 2 styles of negotiation. The first is the cooperative style, in which a better level of communication characterized by friendliness and goodwill predominates.  The cooperative style seeks to achieve coordination of efforts and views the difference of conflicting interests as a problem to be solved, not a threat. 

The second style is competitive.  There, obstructive communication predominates. This means that one uses communication simply as a weapon to confuse or deceive the adversary. This, in the end, dissipates trust and, therefore, is an obstacle to reaching an agreement.

When setting up an atmosphere of competition, in general, the players have to make double the effort. Indeed, they do not divide the work nor benefit from the competences of the other, as occurs in the cooperative model. Disagreements and attempts to neutralize the rival result in limited benefits.

Due to what we have mentioned before, the Deutsch & Krauss experience shows that as a general rule  the competitive model tends to prevail. The failure of the other becomes more important than the victory. This limits personal success. When there is cooperation, on the other hand, part of the profits are forfeited, but less effort is invested and partial triumph is guaranteed.

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