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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Language is critical to coordination in groups. Though, how language affects coordination in groups is not well understood. We prime distributive and integrative language in a bargaining experiment to better understand the links between group outcomes and communication. We accomplish this by priming interests or positions language in randomized groups. We find that priming positions as opposed to interests language leads to agreements where controllers, subjects with unilateral authority over the group outcome, receive a larger share of the benefits but where the total benefits to the group are unaffected. In contrast to common justifications for the use of integrative language in bargaining, our experimental approach revealed no significant differences between priming interests and positions language in regards to increasing joint outcomes for the groups. Across treatments, we find subjects that use gain frames and make reference to visuals aids during bargaining experience larger gains for the group, while loss frames and pro-self language experience larger gains for the individual through side payments. This finding suggests a bargainer’s dilemma: whether to employ language that claims a larger share of group’s assets or employ language to increase joint gains.

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Copyright: © 2020 Weir et al.


This is an Open Access article published by PLOS in PLOS One in 2020, available online: