This article analyzes the impact of conciliatory initiatives on conflict resolution in two-party bargaining. It specifically develops and tests a theory of unilateral initiatives derived from Osgood's (1962) notion of Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction (GRIT). The major propositions of the theory indicate that, given a pattern of mutual resistance or hostility, unilateral initiatives and tit-for-tat retaliation in response to punitive action will produce more conciliation and less hostility by an opponent. To test the theory, a bargaining setting was created in a laboratory experiment in which parties exchanged offers and counteroffers on an issue across a number of rounds while also having the option to engage in punitive action against one another. The results indicated that (1) unilateral initiatives produced more concession making and less hostility than a reciprocity strategy, and (2) tit-for-tat retaliation heightened hostility initially but reduced it over time. The article suggests some general, abstract conditions under which two parties in conflict can produce conciliation and reach agreements without the intervention of third parties.
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