Publications & Resources

Assessment Issues in the Validation of a Computer Simulation of Negotiation Skills

Apr 1994

Harold F. O'Neil Jr., Keith Allred, and Robert Dennis

Can valid and reliable assessments be developed that measure workplace interpersonal skills, such as an employee’s ability to negotiate? This study provides some encouraging results. Using a computer simulation, CRESST researchers O’Neil, Allred, and Dennis assessed multiple dimensions of students’ ability to negotiate a job contract. For example, in one of several different scenarios, a high school student is seeking employment and a movie theatre manager is looking to hire. The two parties negotiate the terms of the contract with respect to three issues: (a) hourly wage, (b) weekend hours, and (c) free movie passes. The student’s priorities directly oppose those of the manager. The extent to which the student yields in the area of least concern to him- or herself and gains in the area most important to him- or herself is one measure of negotiation skill. “The main test of validity,” said the authors, “was to see if the simulation approach would discriminate between experts and novices.” Thirty-seven second- and third-year law students who were nearing completion of a course on negotiation participated as experts while 248 college-bound students with no negotiation training served as novices. Across all phases and versions of the simulation, the authors found that experts’ performance was superior to novices’ performance. Moreover, their findings consistently demonstrated that (a) in simulations, lower negotiation performances were associated with known cognitive biases, and (b) experts exhibit more self-regulation skills than novices. The experiences of O’Neil, Allred, and Dennis in conducting the study suggest that the computer simulation approach used was a valid and feasible method of assessing negotiation skills for both individuals and teams. Work continues on the project, focusing on group dynamics and assessment.

O’Neil, H. F. Jr., Allred, K., & Dennis, R. (1994). Assessment issues in the validation of a computer simulation of negotiation skills (CSE Report 374). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).