Conflict Resolution

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I recently joined a psychological study, now in its third year, called the Good Judgment Project. The project asks groups of people of diverse backgrounds to make predictions about the the occurrence of various events, mostly in the realm of foreign affairs. This study has already had remarkable success in forecasting the likelihood of various world political and economic events, in contrast to the often dismal record of even highly renowned individual experts and pundits. Similarly, various trading exchanges that allow the public to purchase (with real or imaginary money) interests in various possible outcomes, have also had notable success in accurately predicting election results and such. These kinds of experiments demonstrate something about the wisdom of crowds. But the Good […]

There is a lot in Daniel Kahneman‘s book Thinking, Fast and Slow of interest to mediators and other people involved in conflict. The book sums up a lifetime of work in psychology and economics, and serves almost as a catalog of cognitive biases we encounter in business, the legal system and elsewhere. One chapter describes the optimism bias, which may be essential to making capitalism function, but which also leads to many costly decisions for individuals. For example, the optimism bias leads entrepreneurs to expect success in opening their own small business such as a restaurant, despite the knowledge that the majority of such businesses fail within a few years. Kahneman also describes a similar bias he calls the planning […]

Today’s New York Times Magazine had an article about the hazards of confidence, by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, adapted from his forthcoming book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman describes some team-building exercises he engaged in many years ago in the Israeli Army, that were used to predict the leadership qualities of soldiers. It turned out that these exercises had no predictive power whatsoever, yet those who participated and evaluated the results continued to believe in their value, even after seeing their lack of predictive power. It must just seem intuitively obvious that those who exhibit the most skill at such tasks as figuring out how to get the team over a wall, would perform best at leadership tasks in […]

A new study published by the American Psychological Association asked lawyers six to twelve months in advance of trial to set their minimum goals for the trial outcome and their predicted chances of reaching that goal.  The largest percentage of lawyers who participated in the survey fell short of their goals, and also expressed over-confidence in their chances of reaching their goals.  Interestingly, the lawyers’ level of experience did not produce better predictive results.  Also interestingly, women lawyers were somewhat closer to the mark in their predictions than their more over-confident male brethren. I don’t find these results surprising at all.  Lawyers must project confidence to their clients, otherwise clients will doubt whether their lawyer is on their side.  Lawyers […]