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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

This is not meth. This is negotiation.

If the best negotiators are patient, honest and know how things are valued, Walter White certainly knows what he’s doing - to begin with. Let’s see how this plays out... 

In the clip above, Breaking Bad protagonist Walter White (a.k.a Heisenberg) makes a visit to brutal Drug Lord Tuco Salamanca, who previously hospitalised his partner Jesse Pinkman. Walt heads into negotiations armed with nothing but a bag of meth – set to fail, some might assume. He insists Tuco distribute his product on a cash-up-front basis plus compensation for his partner’s injuries. Walt unknowingly employs some research-founded negotiation techniques to seal the deal.

Now, Heisenberg doesn't just go in all guns blazing (a rare occurrence in Breaking Bad),  he makes one simple statement, “I don’t imagine I’ll be here very long”, and waits, creating a time pressure. Research suggests that people are less likely to explore their alternatives, and more likely to make concessions, under time pressure (Stuhlmacher and Champagne, 2000). Thus, Walt is robbing Tuco of the opportunity to explore his BATNA (best alternative to the negotiated agreement) and increasing his chances of a successful negotiation.

Next, Walt sets his price and remains silent, a demonstration of patience. Silence has been shown as more effective in negotiation than direct confrontation (Chu, Strong, Ma & Greene, 2005). Tuco is evidently not aware of this and is noticeably riled.

Most importantly, he knows how things are valued - how much Tuco values his product and how much he values the money. They both know his meth is the rare and the purest in the trade, demonstrating scarcity which in turn increases the desirability of the item. Cialdini’s (2007) scarcity principle states that something is more attractive when it is less available and this concept can be used as a tactic to increase compliance.
In light of these tactics, it appears as if Walt is in a pretty good position to secure a deal. However, drug lords apparently don’t take kindly to negotiation and when Walt realises this and resorts to his best alternative: blowing up the whole building. Surprisingly, this works and he gets both the deal and the money. Moral of the story being: when all else fails, just blow up the place and get what you want. Hey, it worked for Heisenberg!

Chu, Y., Strong, W. F., Ma, J., & Greene, W. E. (2005). Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 9, 113-129.

Cialdini, R. B. (2007). 
Influence: The psychology of persuasion. S.l.: Collins.

Stuhlmacher, A. F., & Champagne, M. V. (2000). The impact of time pressure and information on negotiation process and decisions. Group Decision and Negotiation, 9, 471 – 191. 

Sophie Preece (Blog 5) 

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