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Parks and Rumble (2001) argued that immediate retaliation reinforced the competitively orientated individual's pre-disposition to view negotiations as inherently hostile and confrontational. According to Parks and Rumble, shifting the competitively oriented individual towards cooperation required salient demonstrations that the alternative path of cooperation led to positive outcomes. Matching a cooperative stance with cooperative responses and a slow-to-retaliate strategy by first matching non-cooperation with cooperation before shifting to non-cooperation shifted competitive-oriented negotiators toward cooperation (Parks & Rumble, 2001).

Individualists entered negotiations seeking to exploit the other, but shifted to whichever strategy offered maximum individual gain (Parks & Rumble, 2001). If the individualist found exploitation to be ineffective, the individualist would seek an alternative strategy, as long as the alternative could lead to maximum personal gain. When the best available option was exploitation, individualists would respond with non-cooperation. When individualists had a choice of exploitation or cooperation, individualists chose cooperation only when cooperation offered benefits exceeding exploitation. Individualists tended to test the waters periodically by switching to exploitation and non-cooperativeness. Matching non-cooperation with non-cooperation halted exploitative attempts and the shift towards non-cooperation.

Prerequisites for Tit-for-Tat

An environment conducive for cooperative moves guided by TFT required a pattern of interactions between participants with no foreseeable end date (Evans, 2003). Non-cooperation was always the optimum strategy in a limited duration prisoner's dilemma game (Richards, 2001). Promoting cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma depended on credible threats of retaliation (Young, 2003). As Young explained, "cooperation is more likely to be chosen if the threat of retaliation changes the payoff structure of the outcomes so that the net utility from cooperating is higher than the net utility of not" (p. 95). Effective retaliation, according to Young, also required that acts of non-cooperation be mutually observable.

For Pruitt and Kimmel (1977), effective TFT required ongoing interactions, open communication, time to reflect on the experiences resulting from each subsequent move, tangible evidence that a strategy of exploitation would not succeed, and recognition that positive benefits resulted from cooperation. Zeng and Chen (2003) argued that increasing rewards for cooperation or reducing rewards for non-cooperation dampened exploitative motivations while enhancing the saliency of cooperation. According to Parks and Rumble (2001), effectiveness required the opponent's explicit awareness of TFT, though generating awareness was surprisingly difficult to achieve. For Komorita et al. (1991), heightened awareness required proponents to announce a cooperative intent and a commitment to reciprocating acts of cooperativeness.

Tit-for-Tat as a Heuristic Device

Rapoport (1985) contended that simple games, such as the prisoner's dilemma, failed to model the complexity of social interaction during negotiation. Instead, game theories provided heuristic devices useful in guiding experimentation and the formation of alternative perspectives (Rapoport, 1985). Oskamp (1977) noted that the prisoner's dilemma was one of seventy-eight different types of two-person mixed motive games. Oskamp found that different strategies produced winning outcomes when researchers altered the payoff matrix. For example, in the game of Chicken, where mutual defection produced the lowest payoff for both participants, a cooperative stance produced a higher collective payoff than tit-for-tat when a proponent faced a persistently non-cooperative opponent (Oskamp, 1977).

Oskamp (1977) noted, "the many differences found between results with the PD [Prisoner's Dilemma] game and other two-person matrix games demonstrated conclusively that the structure of the conflict situation must be considered a major factor in any general theory of conflict" (italics in the original, p. 257). Oskamp intended that participants fit the nature of the game to the current situation. Yet, if negotiation strategies are heuristic devices, implementation of different game-theory informed strategies might alter participants' interpretation of the current situation. As Van Lange and Visser (1999) proposed, TFT was not a strategy of strict reciprocity but a vehicle to communicate a desire for a trusting and mutually cooperative relationship.

Though other strategies outperformed TFT, simplicity explained TFT's persistent attractiveness (Richards, 2001). The movement to cooperation promulgated by TFT resulted from a shared grammar, and expected patterns of actions and reactions (Richards, 2001). Simplified models, such as TFT, provided users with an interpretative device to impose logic and structure onto complex human dynamics and decision-making processes (Young, 2003). For Richards (2001), TFT provided a metaphorical image influencing contextual interpretations. Viewing negotiations through the framework provided by TFT imputed coherence and rationally onto proponent and opponent moves. Instead of cooperation evolving out of futility, cooperation might reflect a synchronization of negotiation norms and patterns. Negotiators become dance partners where coordinated patterns of action and reaction produce coherency and harmony. Similar to the effect of behavioral mirroring (Ivey, 1995), synchronization and the ordering of gesture-response patterns might promote shared expectations and heightened understanding.

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February 2006