Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills 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, April 17, 2014

Buying Time

I often find myself in a situation where I love something my sister owns. Moreover, that item is usually not available in stores because they’ve sold out or the sister has brought it from abroad. So I would often do anything to get the item (yes, I fall for the scarcity effect more frequently than I would like to admit). Last time I fell in love, it was a fabulous purple purse.

First of all, I did my research in order to find out my best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). It turned out that the only option was to get the purse from my sister. I had to know how my sister valued the purse (her BATNA), so I started asking her questions about it (e.g., if she got bored of it; if she would like a new purse, etc.). My sister still liked her purse and wasn’t planning on placing it at my disposal.

Not only I had to negotiate the price, but I also had to make her sell the item she didn’t want to in the first place. I was honest with her and said that I was willing to buy the purse. She said no. I was ready to pay the full price, so I offered the money. She wouldn’t agree. However, I was patient and decided to wait for a while. I though that maybe she’d change her mind; maybe she’d see a new, more appealing purse while shopping; maybe she’d be in better mood next time I talk to her; but most importantly - maybe she’d need something from me.

Lewicki, Saunders, and Minton (2000) found that negotiation under time pressure involves distributive behaviour such as placing demands and making concessions. Because I was in a worse position than my sister, I could have offered her more money or started blackmailing her into agreement, which no one wants in a good negotiation. Moreover, it’s hard to make efficient judgments and decisions under time pressure, because we sacrifice the accuracy and quality of such agreements (Carnevale & Pruitt, 1992; Carroll & Payne, 1991). If I had pressured my sister, she could have possibly agreed. However, it doesn’t mean that she would have been satisfied with the deal. She is my sister, so I didn’t want to risk our relationship. Finally, ‘buying time’ is a negotiation tactic usually seen as a way to strengthen ones position and to be better able to do well personally (Lewicki et al., 2000).

So next time I approached my sister ready to talk about the purse again, she was happy about her test result. She also had a lot of homework waiting, and on top of that, she had a fish tank to clean, which she had been supposed to do two weeks ago. I offered her half the money I suggested the first time, my help with the homework and fish tank, and we finally had a deal.

I ask for what I want. I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m persistent and patient. I’m sometimes ready to sweeten the pot and I always take time to acknowledge a good deal, and thank my sister. That’s how I negotiate to get what I want and also to please my sister so she doesn’t feel deceived.


Carnevale, P. J. D., &Pruitt, D. G. (1992). Negotiation and mediation. Annual Review of Psychology, 43, 531–582.

Carroll, J. S., & Payne, J. W. (1991). An information processing approach to two-party negotiation. Research on Negotiation in Organizations, 3, 3–34

Lewicki, R. J., Saunders, J. W., & Minton, J. W. (2000). Negotiation. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

Justina Pakulnyte (5th Blog)

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