Starting Out on the Right Foot: Negotiation Schemas When Cultures Collide

  • Wendi L. Adair
  • Masako S. Taylor
  • Catherine H. Tinsley


We investigate the intercultural negotiation schemas of 100 experienced Japanese and U.S. negotiators. Specifically, we examine the assumptions negotiators make about appropriate behavior when primed to negotiate with an intercultural (vs. intracultural) counterpart. We find that intercultural negotiation schemas clash on six of nine elements, meaning U.S. and Japanese negotiators have significantly different expectations about what it is like to negotiate with the other. This clash occurs not because negotiators stay anchored on their own cultural assumptions about negotiating, but rather because they try to adjust to their counterpart’s cultural assumptions about negotiating. But negotiators adjust their schemas by thinking about how their counterpart negotiates in an intracultural rather than intercultural setting. That is, they fail to account for the fact that their counterpart would also adjust expectations for the intercultural context. The phenomenon we uncover is one of schematic overcompensation, whereby negotiators’ intercultural schemas do not match because each negotiator expects the encounter to be just like the counterpart’s within‐culture negotiations. Our theory of schematic overcompensation receives some support, and negotiators’ perceived knowledge and experience with the other culture somewhat attenuates the phenomenon. Implications for negotiator cognition, intercultural negotiation, and global management are discussed.

Keywords: negotiation, culture, schema, intercultural, international, adjustment, Japan, U.S

How to Cite:

Adair, W. & Taylor, M. & Tinsley, C., (2009) “Starting Out on the Right Foot: Negotiation Schemas When Cultures Collide”, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 2(2), 138-163. doi:

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Published on
07 Apr 2009
Peer Reviewed