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Throughout this work, the underlying theme is the narrowness of our perceptions about negotiation. “Some of the most central findings about negotiation in our society are totally wrong when we move to collectivistic societies,” Dean Pruitt states in the book’s Foreword (p. xi). Indeed, Gelfand and Brett make clear that the field of negotiation is trapped within a tradition of “culture-bound research.” What we “know” they point out in their Preface and at greater length in their Epilogue is the product of United States and Western European research reflecting 30 percent of humankind and laden with North American and Western European cultural biases.
As a result of this ethnocentric world constructed by Western research; negotiation “truths” we espouse may not be humankind’s truths at all. Conflict avoidance may be a negative strategy for Americans, but a positive strategy in a collectivistic culture in which saving face and harmony is critical and highly valued. Not only our findings, but our research methods may be inappropriate in cross-cultural research, the editors’ point out. Role-play simulations between strangers that found so much of American research, for example, are “unnatural in cultures beyond the United States” (p.425).
It is a fascinating book.
Each chapter in this book concludes with a lengthy bibliography of sources used by its author and invaluable for the on-going researcher on each topic.
John Baker, Ph.D.
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