Chapter | Oxford Handbook of Economic Conflict Resolution | Forthcoming

Intermediation and Diffusion of Responsibility in Negotiation: A Case of Bounded Ethicality

by Neeru Paharia, Lucas Clayton Coffman and Max Bazerman


This article compares direct deception with deception via an intermediary in the bargaining context. It describes a growing experimental literature that suggests how perceived ethics surrounding transactions with multiple partners can encourage misbehavior. It is noted that causing harm indirectly through another can protect harm doers. Harm doers are apparently protected from punishment as well. The hypothesis that intermediation reduces punishment runs counter to predictions coming from a model in which solely unfair actions are punished. Experiments are also presented that show a phenomenon about the attribution of responsibility and subsequent blame (and praise) in negotiation and conflict resolution settings. It is believed that by making people more aware of their failure to notice and punish indirect unethical behavior, others can create a world where the use of intermediation will no longer provide harm doers an easy escape from public awareness.

Keywords: Negotiation Process; Ethics;


Paharia, Neeru, Lucas Clayton Coffman, and Max Bazerman. "Intermediation and Diffusion of Responsibility in Negotiation: A Case of Bounded Ethicality." In Oxford Handbook of Economic Conflict Resolution, edited by Gary E. Bolton and Rachel T.A. Croson, 37–46. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012.