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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

That's Extortion!

Do you see yourself as a good negotiator? It is a key skill that enables us to get what we want, when we want it. There are several core techniques to negotiation, which Erin, in the film Erin Brockovich demonstrates.

This is the negotiation in case you can’t access the clip above:

Ed: Did you make a copy? Could I look at it?

Erin: I want a raise and benefits

Ed: Erin, this isn’t the way to do business

Erin: What way is that?

Ed: Extortion!


Ed: Ok 5 percent raise, we’ll talk about benefits later

Erin: 10, there are lots of other places I can get work!

Ed: 10 percent raise and benefits, but that’s it, I’m drawing the line

Erin: He’s drawing the line (whispered)

Erin is an effective negotiator as she is patient and honest. She also knows how much the information from the PG and E office is worth for the legal case and Ed, the lawyer. It is highly valued. She also makes it clear to Ed that she is aware of her Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) – “there are lots of other places I can get work”. Ed’s BATNA is getting Erin to give him the relevant copies for the smallest reward possible. A Zone of Possible Agreement is created where the best outcome has to be found. Kim and Fragale (2005) found that BATNAs were most effective when the Zone of Possible Agreement is small. In this scenario, it was because Erin only wanted a slight raise to stay in her job.

Erin also lets Ed to most of the talking, leaving the pause before he made the first offer. She also asks directly for a best raise (10%) which has been proved to be very effective in negotiations. Ed also has invested a lot of time and effort into the legal case and Erin knows that! He has emotional involvement in the case, meaning that his negotiation skills will be impaired (Hsee & Rottenstreich, 2004). However, the fact that Ed took his time in making an offer meant that he could think more clearly about his options.

Next time you want something, Erin Brockovich is the girl to learn from!
Philippa Mundy


Hsee, C. K., & Rottenstreich, Y. (2004). Music, pandas, and muggers: on the affective psychology of value. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(1), 23.

Kim, P. H., & Fragale, A. R. (2005). Choosing the path to bargaining power: an empirical comparison of BATNAs and contributions in negotiation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(2), 373.



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