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 11, 2014

It’s All about Your BATNA

The video clip posted above features the TV series “Firefly”. The show is set in the year 2517 and revolves around a group of individuals who fought on the losing side of a civil war, and others, who work on the spaceship “Serenity” struggling to survive/make a living through both legal and illegal methods. The clip is taken from episode 2 “The Train Job”, it revolves around a negotiation between Mal (Serenity’s captain), Crow (the badass with the tattooed face) and another henchman of Niska (named isn’t mentioned). See the transcript below:

Mal: “Now, this is all the money Niska gave us in advance. You bring it back to him. Tell him the job didn't work out. We're not thieves. But we are thieves. Point is, we're not takin' what's his. Now we'll stay out of his way as best we can from here on in. You explain that's best for everyone, okay?”

Crow: “Keep the money. Use it to buy a funeral. It doesn't matter where you go or how far you fly. I will hunt you down, and the last thing you see will be my blade”

Mal: “Darn”

[Kicks Crow through running engines. Next bad guy is brought forward]

Mal: “Now, this is all the money Niska gave us in advance...” 

One of Niska's Soldiers: “Oh, I get it! I'm good. Best thing for everyone. I'm right there with ya”

As the blog title indicates this negotiation is all about an individual’s best alternative to the negotiated agreement (BATNA). Past research has found that being aware of your BATNA before going into a negotiation will results in better outcomes for you than another individual who did not know about their BATNA (Brett, Pinkley & Jackofsky, 1996; White & Neale, 1991). Research by Pinkley, Neale and Bennett (1994) indicates that the better your BATNA are the more this will affect your negotiation resulting in even better outcomes for yourself. Thus having BATNA and knowing these is of great importance when negotiating.

In the negotiation posted above Mal clearly makes use of the BATNA his negotiation partner has, by killing Crow in front of the soldier Mal not only limits the soldier’s BATNA (which is, now, being killed) but also forces him to be aware of it. Although Mal made use of only one of many factors influencing negotiations it proved to be more than sufficient thus emphasising the importance of having a good BATNA and being aware of it before entering a negotiation.


Pinkley, R. L., Neale, M. A., & Bennett, R. J. (1994). The impact of alternatives to settlement in dyadic negotiation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 57(1), 97-116.

Brett, J. F., Pinkley, R. L., & Jackofsky, E. F. (1996). Alternatives to having a BATNA in dyadic negotiation: The influence of goals, self-efficacy, and alternatives on negotiated outcomes. International Journal of Conflict Management, 7(2), 121-138.

White, S. B., & Neale, M. A. (1991). Reservation prices, resistance points, and BATNAs: Determining the parameters of acceptable negotiated outcomes. Negotiation Journal, 7(4), 379-388.

Jan Paul Huwe – Blog 5

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