Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lessons from The Godfather: Negotiations

This video clip was a short scene from the movie “The Godfather”. In this clip the protagonist Michael Corleone had a negotiation with Mo Green to buy into the Las Vegas Casino business. Michael's father was nearly killed and their family was under attack in New York, so they needed to buy the business to move their headquarters. Michael's older brother Fredo was living there, working for Mo Green. I have learnt some negotiation techniques from Michael.

There was an obvious contrast of emotion between Michael and Mo. Throughout the discussion as Mo got all in a lather, Michael remained completely calm. Research has shown that emotionally neutral decision makers make better decisions. Lerner, Small & Loewenstein's (2004) study has showed that incidental emotions can influence decisions even when real money is at stake, and that emotions of the same valence can have opposing effects on such decisions. Hsee & Rottenstreich's (2004) study has found that emotional thinking impairs discrimination. Druckman and Olekalns (2008) also claim that negative emotions have an adverse effect when negotiating. The more emotional you are in a situation, the less likely you are to maximize outcomes in decision making. Therefore it is important to stay calm when negotiating.

The second negotiation technique Michael used was to keep silent. We can see that Mo kept arguing aggressively while Michael stayed silent and talked only a few sentences. Michael's silence put Mo under pressure and made him rush the negotiation process. And he waited until Mo Green showed his hand about a deal with the Barzini family, then he dropped the bomb “is that why you slapped my brother around in public?” In a negotiation just because you have all the information does not mean you lay it all on the table at once

We can see that Michael had done enough homework before the negotiation. He knew everything about the operation of that Casino down to the working relationship between Mo and his brother. He knew exactly what buttons to push to take it over. The more information you have, the better deal you can make.

To sum up, to be a good negotiator, we need to do enough homework to obtain valid information about the deal. And also it is important to keep calm during the negotiation.


Druckman, D. and Olekalns, M. (2008) Emotions in Negotiations, Group Decision and Negotiation Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1-11.

Hsee, C. K., & Rottenstreich, Y. (2004). Music, pandas, and muggers: on the affective psychology of value. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General133(1), 23.

Lerner, J. S., Small, D. A., & Loewenstein, G. (2004). Heart strings and purse strings carryover effects of emotions on economic decisions.Psychological Science15(5), 337-341.

 Yinan Wang
(Blog 5)

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