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MediationA Current Review and Theory Development

Article  in  Journal of Conflict Resolution · June 2001

DOI: 10.1177/0022002701045003006


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Mediation: A Current Review and Theory Development
Author(s): James A. Wall, Jr., John B. Stark and Rhetta L. Standifer
Source: The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Jun., 2001), pp. 370-391
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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Departmentof Management
Universityof Missouri-Columbia

The mediationliteratureof the pastdecadeis organizedinto six topicalareas:the determinantsof media-

tion, mediationper se, approachesemployedby mediators,determinantsof the mediationapproaches,out-
comes of mediation,and determinantsof the mediationoutcomes. The literaturethat describes mediation
per se, mediationapproaches,and outcomes is very descriptiveratherthan theoretical.The literaturethat
deals with the determinantsof the mediation,approaches,and outcomes is quite descriptivebut also pro-
vides an ample base for theorydevelopment.

The women of the Northpeople (Vikings)do not fightamongthemselves, and often

did I see them intercedein a growing brawlof two men, to quench the rising anger"
(Fadlan,quotedin Crichton1976, 111). As this entryfromAhmadIbnFadlan'sdiary
in 922 reveals,mediationhas lengthyhistoricroots, andrecentreviews indicatethatit
has been used extensively for decades to resolve conflict (Wall 1981; Wall and Lynn
1993). During the past decade, reportson the practiceand study of mediation have
increasedlinearly,if notexponentially,andsuch an expansionprovidesthe motivation
to review and analyze the mediation literatureduring this period. In the following
pages, we proffer such a review, with an emphasis on the literaturefrom the past 5
Mediationis assistanceto two or moreinteractingparties(KresselandPruitt1989)
by thirdparties who (usually) have no authorityto impose an outcome. Not only is
mediationone of the oldest formsof conflict resolution,butit is also used worldwide,
with examples found in China (Cohen 1966), Korea (Kim 1986), Malaysia
(Provencher1968), Poland (Olszanska, Olszanki, and Wozniak 1993), Azerbaijan
(Keller 1991), Israel(Abu-Nimer1996), Norway (Polley 1988), and Japan(Cortazzi

AUTHORS' NOTE: Due to space constraints,a complete list of references could not be contained
within this article. Such a listing (approximately530 in number)can be obtainedfrom the first authorat
JOURNAL OFCONFLICT Vol.45 No. 3, June2001370-391
? 2001SagePublications

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 371

Today,this ancientand internationallyused conflict managementprocess is relied

on to managedisputesin variousarenas.Specifically,mediationis employedandstud-
ied in internationalrelations(e.g., Bercovitch 1996), labor-managementnegotiations
(e.g., MumpowerandRohrbaugh1996), communitydisputes(e.g., Pruittet al. 1993),
school conflicts (e.g., Johnsonet al. 1995), and legal disputes (e.g., Riskin 1996).


To organizethe literaturefromthe pastdecadereasonablyandconcisely, we use the

frameworkdelineatedin Figure 1. The origin of mediationis the interactionbetween
two or more partieswho may be disputants,negotiators,or interactingpartieswhose
relationshipcould be improvedby the mediator'sintervention.Undervariouscircum-
stances (determinantsof mediation),the parties/disputantsdecide to seek the assis-
tance of the thirdparty,and this partydecides whetherto mediate.As the mediation
gets underway, the thirdpartyselects from a numberof availableapproachesand is
influencedby variousfactors(labeleddeterminantsof approaches),such as environ-
ment, mediator'straining,disputants'characteristics,and natureof their conflict.
Once applied, these approachesyield outcomes for the disputants(e.g., satisfac-
tion, a perceptionof fairtreatment),mediator,andthirdparties(otherthanthe media-
tor).As the figureindicates,the natureandextentof thisinfluencearemitigatedby fac-
tors such as the intensity of the dispute,the relativepower of the disputants,and the
type of issue.
In the following review, we addressthe aforementionedtopics in the order indi-
cated by the figure-namely, the determinants of mediation, mediation itself,
approachesemployed,determinantsof the mediationapproaches,outcomesof media-
tion, and determinantsof the outcomes.
The elementsconnectedalongthe horizontalaxis in Figure1 (i.e., mediationper se,
approaches,and outcomes) are typically listed or describedin the literature.By con-
trast,the segmentswith the verticallinks-the determinantsof mediation,approaches,
and outcomes-have some theoreticalunderpinnings.We begin with an examination
of the determinantsof mediation.


For mediationto occur,two processes must mesh. First, the interacting/disputing

partiesmust request or permita thirdpartyto mediate;second, the thirdpartymust
agree to mediate.
The literatureindicates that two factors-norms and expected benefits-shape
these two interdependentprocesses. Consider first the norms, which are frequently
embedded in the culture.These serve as a powerful force, motivatingdisputantsin
China (Chan 1998), Korea (Cho and Park 1996), Japan(Callister and Wall 1997),
Malaysia (Mansor 1998; Wall and Callister 1999), Thailand (Roongrengsukeand
Chansuthus1998), and Turkey(Kozanand Ergin 1998) to seek assistancefrom third

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Determinants Determnants
'~of of ~ ~Outcome
Mediation Determinants

-MediationII Approaches
Disputants [ Mediator's
Interactions Outcomes

Third Parties'
- Outcomes

Figure 1: The MediationFramework

parties. An explanation for this action-supported by cultural efficacy theory

(Ohbuchi 1998)-is that the disputantsin these countrieshave repeatedlyobserved
disagreementsbeing handledby thirdparties,and they know that their society sanc-
tions this approach.
In contrast,disputantsin the United States usually do not seek third-partyassis-
tance. Paquin's(1992) workillustratesthis pointin thathe foundonly 10%of the dis-
puting (U.S.) neighborsin his study turnedto thirdpartiesfor assistance, and none
used mediation.Likewise, Keatinget al. (1994) found that their disputantsvery sel-
dom used mediation.The authors'explanationis thatU.S. citizens areunfamiliarwith
mediationand thereforedo not thinkto use it when conflicts arise.
Althoughnationalculturesentailor producenormsthatpromptpartiesto use medi-
ation, othernormsare generatedby the specific communitiesto which the disputants
belong (Raymond 1994) and by their laws. For example, many states in the United
States have passed statutesthat allow the courts to orderdisputantsto participatein
mandatorymediation(Winston1996). Whenthe courtsdo so, the disputantsmust and
do attendmeetings(Thoennes,Salem,andPearson1995). On the otherhand,whenthe
legal communityis unfamiliarwith mediationand does not requireit, disputantsare
less apt to rely on the process (Gaschen 1995).
Not only do normsandspecific laws promptdisputantsto seek or allow third-party
assistance,butdisputantsalso seek third-partyassistancebecausethey expect this will
yield variousbenefits.Forexample,the disputantsmightrealizethatthe mediatorpos-
sesses some expertiseon the problem,mighthave a methodfor overcomingimpasses
(Silver 1996), could be helpful in buildinga positive relationshipbetween the parties

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 373

(Scherer1997), could enablethe partiesto keep controlof theirown conflict (Stamato

1992), or keep the resolutionconfidential(Thrush1994).
To evaluatethe benefitsof third-partyassistance,the disputantsoften comparethe
outcomes of the mediatedinteractionwith those of the alternative.Such an alternative
might simply be a continual dispute, which negotiations have failed to resolve
(Savoury,Beals, and Parks 1995). On the other hand, the alternativeto third-party
assistance might be adjudication,which can be frustrating(Ferstenberg1992), slow,
costly, and public (Stamato1992).
Turningfromthe interactingpartiesto the thirdparties,we findthattheirmediation
is also engenderedby norms,specific laws, and expected benefits. As for the norms,
we find that street committee mediatorsin China (Wall and Blum 1991), imams in
Malaysia (Wall and Callister 1999), panchayates in India, and managersin Korean
firms(Kim, Sohn, andWall 1999) comply with the societal obligationsto mediatedis-
putes that are broughtto them.
In the United States,the law may dictatethatjudges in civil cases mediatebetween
the plaintiff and defendantin a pretrialsettlement conference (Guthrie and Levin
1998). Manyjudges may prefernot to do so becausethey see themselves as adjudica-
tors;however,if the relevantstateandfederallaws dictatesettlementconferences,the
judges are obligatedto providemediationservices.
Shiftingfromthe normsandlaws to the expectedbenefits,we can notethatthe liter-
aturereportsthatsome thirdpartiesmediatebecause it benefitsthemselves (Vanayan
et al. 1997) or their constituents(Levitt 1997).
In sum,thethirdparties'motivationto mediate,liketheinteractingparties'/disputants'
tendencyto seek assistance,is determinedby normsor laws andthe expectedpayoffs
from mediation.This summationandthe studiesunderpinningit raise the questionof
whether we can develop succinct theories concerning additional determinantsof
mediation. These would increase our knowledge base and guide future mediation


Ourdeductionis thatthe firsttwo of these factors-namely, normsand laws-do

not offer fertile groundfor theorybuilding.The causes of normsandlaws thatpromote
mediationare so complex andmultifacetedthattheorybuildingand predictionsfrom
them are often erroneous.For example, it seems reasonableto hypothesize that the
Koreannorms for disputantsto seek mediationof their disagreementsand for third
partiesto mediate these disputesare the productof the Confucianharmony-oriented
religion. However,an equally valid explanationwould be thatthe interdependenceof
the Korean agrariansociety engenderedthese norms or that historically a lack of
access to the courts was responsiblefor them.
Insteadof developingtheoriesfor the underpinningsof mediationnormsin various
societies, we propose that scholars simply tally which societies (e.g., China, Korea,
Malaysia, India, Polynesia) have normsor laws thatpromotemediation.This would
lead to a ratherstraightforward conclusionthatmediationis moreaptto be undertaken
in these societies.

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While the norms and laws proffersomewhatbarrengroundfor additionaltheory

building,the "expectedpayoffs"constructdoes seem to offersome potential.Consider
first the interacting parties. Using expectancy theory (Thibaut and Kelley 1959;
Vroom 1964), we proposethatdisputantswill seek mediationfroma thirdpartyto the
extent that each expects his or her own net outcomes-rather than the joint out-
come-from the mediationto be greaterthan those from the currentinteractionor
froman alternativeapproach.Fine-tuningthis generalhypothesis,we can derivesome
more specific propositions.
The expected net outcomes from the mediationare pivotal because the disputant
comparesthe outcomes from the currentinteractionwith these (and makes a second
comparisonbetween the expectedoutcomesfroman alternativeandthe mediationnet
outcomes).This being the case, any factorsthatraise the expectedoutcomes fromthe
mediation(e.g., reportsthatpeer mediationin schools reducedviolence) or lower the
expected costs (e.g., lawyers not required)will motivatethe disputantto seek media-
tion. Conversely,anyfactorsthatraisethe expectednetpayofffromthe currentinterac-
tion will lower the disputant'smotivationto seek third-partyassistance.Specifically,
any factorsthatlower the costs of the currentinteraction(e.g., the opponentis becom-
ing more agreeable)or raise its payoffs (e.g., the opponents'concessions are increas-
ing) will have this effect.
Emphasizingthat interactingpartieshave alternativesother than mediation (e.g.,
arbitration,terminationof therelationship,openconflict, thecourts),we also posit that
any factorsthatraise the expected outcomeor lower the expectedcost for the alterna-
tive (e.g., a "rent-a-judge"hearingpermitsa retiredjudge to expeditiouslyhear and
rule on a case) will lower the probabilitythatmediationwill be sought.
To these expectancy-basedpredictionswe can add one that deviates somewhat
from rationality.It is basedon the premisethatinteractingpartiesview theirjoint out-
comes as a fixed sum (JohnsonandJohnson1996a;RubinandBrown 1975). As such,
a disputantwill concludethatany activitythatraiseshis or hercounterpart'soutcomes
will diminish his or her own. Therefore,any factors that raise the expected net out-
comes of mediationfor the opponentwill reduce the disputant'smotivationto seek
mediatedassistance.This is not simply a "dogin the manger"effect thatthe disputant
wantsto deny the otherpartythe benefitsof mediation.Rather,it is the misperception
that an increase in the other'soutcomes will come at one's own expense.


Having maintainedthat interactingpartieswill seek third-partymediation under

variousconditionsandthatthirdpartieswill engage in mediationunderratherparallel
conditions,we at this point need to focus more preciselyon mediationitself. Types of
mediationrangefrom internationalandlabormanagementto communityand marital
and others. With the varioustypes of mediationcome differingstructuresand tech-
niques.Forexample,we findmorecomplexityin internationalandlabormanagement
disputes,with more partiesinvolvedthanin communityor intrafamilydisputes.Like-

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Wallet at./MEDIATION 375

wise, techniquesthatareused heavily in one arena(e.g., compensationin international

mediation)are used infrequentlyin another(e.g., in legal mediation).
Despite the varietyin mediationtypes, structures,andtechniques,scholarsoverthe
past decade have developed somewhatof a consensus as to the definition of media-
tion's core process. Currently,most scholars seem to agree that mediationhas three
definingelements:(1) assistanceor some form of interactionby (2) a thirdpartywho
(3) does not have the authorityto impose an outcome.
Admittedly,the last condition providesfuel for disagreementamong researchers
because some mediatorsdo possess sufficientpowerto impose outcomes.Thus, some
scholars have creatively tacked aroundthe issue by inventing new labels such as
"intravenors"(Conlon, Carnevale,and Murnighan1994). Other scholars, perhaps
most, seem content to acknowledgethat some mediatorsdo have power and use it.
They arguethatsuch a wielding of powerdoes not transmutethe processfrom media-
tion to some otherprocess.
A useful replacementfor the debateof mediation'sdefinitionis the recentdiscus-
sion aboutwhat the goals and approachesof mediationshould be. In one facet of the
controversy,one side holds thatmediatorsshouldbe even-handedandimpartialso that
the outcomes of the mediationwill be based on the merits of each side's case (e.g.,
Kruk1998; Silver 1996). The otherside in this debatearguesthata mediatorshouldbe
partialtowardthe weakerpartyto protectit (Honeyman1991).
In a second controversy,some scholarsadvocatethatmediationbe used in tandem
with otherthird-partyapproachessuch as psychotherapy(Dworkin,Jacob, and Scott
1991), arbitration(Ross and Conlon 2000), ombudsmanship(Wiegand 1996), inter-
preters (Dominguez-Urban1997), and nongovernmentorganizations(NGOs) that
provide benefits to the disputants(Kriesberg1996). By contrast,other scholars and
practitionersbelieve that each profession should operateindependently,ratherthan
blurringresponsibilityand overloadingthe disputewith thirdparties.


Once mediationis underway, what techniquesdo such thirdpartiesemploy? The

literaturefrom the past decade is primarilydescriptive,and we reportit as such. The
mediator'svarioustechniques(see Table 1) are wielded againstthe disputantsthem-
selves, the disputants'relationship,and the disputants'relationshipswith others.
When targetingthe disputantsthemselves,mediatorscan provideeach or bothwith
informationor press them with threatsor punishment(Touval 1996). Similarly,they
can use personalpower or authorityto press an agreementpoint or rely on personal
resources to win over (i.e., compensate)one or both parties(Murray1997). In addi-
tion, mediators can determine which points are negotiable for each party (Munro
1997), educate/advisethe disputants,and encourageconcessions. The mediatormay
rely on reflexive techniquessuch as reframingthe opponentin a more positive light
(Umbreit1993). Similarly,the mediatorcan help the partiesto developnew normsand
assist them in implementingtheir agreement(Maley 1995).

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Technique Example

Informationgathering Fromdisputantsor writtendocuments
Pressing Threatensa partyin some way
Compensation Rewardsa person for makinga concession
Education/advising Calls for specific agreementsor concessions
Reflexive Uses humoror lightness
Empowerment Suggests thatdisputantsreacha solution on their own
Distributive Criticizesa side's position
Inaction Simply monitorsthe dispute
Smoothing and cooling Develops trust
Agenda Meets togetherwith disputants
Siding Sells one side's case to the other
Integration Packagesissues
Problemsolving Looks for facts in the case
Representation Asks one side to state the other'sposition
Use of thirdparties Obtainsassistancefrom thirdparties
Makingthe disputepublic Sharesthe conflict with others

When targetingthe disputant-disputant relationship,mediatorscan take steps to

smooththe relationshipby convincingthe disputantsto acceptmediation(Abu-Nimer
1996), buildingtrustbetweenthem(LandauandLandau1997), andcalling for consid-
erationand apologies (Umbreit 1993).
At times, mediatorscontrolthe agendaby establishingor enforcinga protocol for
the mediationand harnessingtechniquesthatcontrolthe disputants'perceptionsand
communications(McAllister 1998). Often, mediatorsseparatethe parties (Callister
andWall 1997), caucusseparatelywith them(Keller 1997), bringthem (Burr1997) or
their representativestogether (Kelman 1996; Rouhana 1995), and, on occasion,
adjourn the mediation sessions.
In coordinationwith the above techniques,mediatorsmay side with one disputant
(Laskewitz,vande Vliert,andde Dreu 1994) or seek to developan integrativesolution
by proposing specific agreementpoints (Conlon and Fasolo 1990). Mediatorsmay
also help the partiesto jointly perceivenew collaborativegoals (KaufmanandDuncan
At times, the mediatorwill use otherthirdparties,bringingpressureto bear from
them (Bonta 1996), obtainingtheirresources,or askingthemto advise the disputants.
At othertimes,the mediatorwill simplymakethe disputepublic(Pinkleyet al. 1995).

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 377


Given the large variety of approachesavailableto mediators,what governs their

choice? The literaturefrom the past decade is sparsein reportingthese determinants,
which are essentially threefold:(1) the environmentand the interestedparties in it,
(2) the mediator,and (3) the disputants.In this section, we reportthese and attemptto
develop theory thatmore completely predictsmediators'approaches.


Among the environmentalinfluences, culture is the strongest and probably the

most varied.The best documentedeffects of cultureseem to be those for Eastern(ver-
sus Western)influences. The Easterndesire for harmonyenhancementgeneratesnot
only a preference for mediation (Gire and Carment 1993) but also influences how
Easternersmediate.Easternmediatorsmakeheavy use of harmonytechniques,which
establishand save face (Baine andSawatzky1991). They also employ pressuretactics
(e.g., threats)quitefrequentlybecausetheirsociety grantsthemthepowerandstatusto
do so. In Westernmediation,by contrast,mediatorsareless aptto use such techniques
(Abu-Nimer1996). Althoughthey aremorebluntthanEasterners,Westernmediators
less frequentlypress the disputantsor bringthird-partypressureto bearbecause their
society does not empowerthem to do so (Wall and Stark 1998).
An interestingtwist on the "power-to-the-mediator" theme is thatEasternmedia-
tors, because of theirpower,status,andresources,arecapableof manipulatingone or
both sides via compensation.Egyptianmediators(Murray1997) do so by drawing
from theirown resources,whereasChinese,Malaysian,and Indianmediatorsdip into
communitycoffers (Wall and Callister 1999).
Among otherenvironmentalfactors,we note thattime pressuremotivatesthe medi-
ator to use pressing tactics (Ross and Wieland 1996), as does the interdependence
betweenthe mediatorandthe dispute.If thisrelationshipis suchthata failedmediation
results in losses to the mediator,the mediator works quite hard to be successful
(Milburnand Isaac 1995), probablyemploying techniquesthat press the disputants.
Likewise, if spillover of the conflict damages allies' interests(Watkinsand Winters
1997), the mediatorpresses for resolution.


Mediators'training(Harris1994) andthe acceptanceof the rules thatgoverntheir

practice (Burr 1997) also determinethe techniques they use. For example, family
mediators/lawyersin the United Statestypically abideby the AmericanBar Associa-
tion 1984 standardsof practice.Likewise, the basic principlesof SPIDR (Society of
Professionalsin DisputeResolution)influencethe techniquesits mediatorsemploy.In
addition to training and rules, the mediators' ideology (Kolb and Rubin 1991;

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Karambayya,Brett,andLytle 1992) servesas a stronginfluenceon the tacticandstrat-

egy selection.


An examinationof the effects of the disputantsthemselvesindicatesthatthe media-

tors' relationshipand the natureof theirpast interactionsdictatethe approachesthey
employ.Forexample,if thedisputantsarenotaccustomedtojoint problemsolving, the
mediatoroften caucuses with them (Weltonet al. 1992). We find thatmediatorsalso
caucus with disputantswhen they are hostile to each otheror have a priorhistory of
escalation (Weltonet al. 1992). Similarly,mediatorsare found to use more reflexive
techniques(e.g., humoror letting each disputantknow its side is understood)when
interpartytrustis low (Ross and Wieland 1996).


As we notedpreviously,the reportsfromthe pastdecadeon the determinantsof the

mediator'sapproachesare somewhatsparse,providinga limited theoreticalbase. To
addressthis limitation,we proposeseveralfactorsthatwe expectdeterminethe media-
tor's approaches.
Ourstartingpointis Table 1, which lists the mediationtechniquesdelineatedin the
literature.Havinglimnedthese mediationtechniques,our goal becomes one of posit-
ing which factorsdeterminewhich approachis used. We posit the effects of four such
factors:(1) techniquefeasibility,(2) the mediator's"cost-then-benefitanalysis"of the
techniques,(3) the mediator'sdecision strategy,and (4) the mediator'sgoals.

Techniquefeasibility.The broadestcriterionfor the use of techniquesis theirfeasi-

bility.This standardwas proposedin Carnevale's(1986, 1992) strategicchoice model
and is quite useful for sorting among the techniques that are used in mediation.
Carnevaleemphasizedthatmediatorsuse only those techniquesthatappearfeasible to
them.Forexample,he notedthata mediatoruses integrativetechniques(e.g., propos-
ing solutions that appealto both disputants)only when the disputantshave common
groundbecause such techniquesare not feasible when environmentalfactorscreatea
win-lose relationship.
When we considerthe techniquesavailableto the mediator(Table 1), it becomes
evident thatsome techniquesmay not be feasible simply because the mediatoris not
awareof themor is told not to use them.Forinstance,a peacekeeperin Bosnia will not
use compensationtechniquesin mediatingcivilian disputesbecause his or her orders
A theoreticaldeductionfrom this straightforwardobservationis that factors that
shield a mediatorfrom varioustechniqueswill, in turn,reduce the feasible set. One
such factorwould be mediatorinexperience;anotherwouldbe servingundera mentor
who uses a limitedcafeteriaof techniquesorthe mediator'sown fixationon techniques
thathave workedin the past.

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Wallet al /MEDIATION 379

Although some factorsreduce or limit the mediator'sfeasible set, others are pre-
dicted to increaseit. Takemediatorstatus.As mediators'statusincreases,theirfeasi-
ble set also increases extensively. A mediatorwith high status will be attendedto,
ratherthanignoredby, the disputants;therefore,the reflexive, distributive,education,
smoothing,andrepresentationtechniquesarelikely to be feasible.Pressing,empower-
ment, agenda setting, and making the dispute public are also feasible. Furthermore,
status gives the mediatorcontrolover resourcesso that the techniquesof compensa-
tion, informationgathering,and use of thirdpartiescan be employed.

Cost-then-benefitanalysis. In addition to feasibility, the cost of the techniques

influences their selection. Insteadof conductinga cost-benefit analysis of the tech-
niques (CarmentandRowlands1998), the mediatoris moreaptto eliminatethe costly
ones first and subsequentlyemploy a cost-benefitanalysis of those remaining.
The explanationfor this predictionis twofold. First,the high cost of using a tech-
nique is immediateand certainfor the mediator,whereasthe benefitsare delayed and
less certain.Second, a high-costtechniquecan be perceivedas "expensive"andthusbe
rejected(Bettman,Johnson,and Payne 1990).
Because of the mediators'cost-then-benefitanalyses, many high-cost approaches
are eschewed or are used only when the benefitsare consideredvery high and proba-
ble. Suchhigh-price tag approachesincludejointmeetings,askingthirdpartiesto crit-
icize the disputingparties,informationsearches,prayersto multiplegods, andconsid-
erationof multiple alternatives.

Mediator'sdecision strategy.Havingdiscussedtwo determinantsof the mediator's

techniques,we turnto themediator'sdecision strategy.Generallyspeaking,the media-
tor can employ eithera "heuristic"or a "compensatory"strategy.Heuristicstrategies
involve the use of minimal informationand time, as well as the considerationof few
alternativesand problem attributes.By contrast, compensatorystrategies employ
extensive amountsof informationand time; herein,many alternativesand attributes
are also considered.
Mediatorsdo not automaticallyfavora heuristicor compensatorystrategy.Rather,
we contendthatthe approachis basedon anefforts-accuracyassessmentof the specific
dispute (Bettmanet al. 1993). Here, the mediator'sassessmentandresultantstrategic
choice of an approachare determinedby the dispute's volatility.
As Amason (1996) noted, some conflicts are unemotionaland characterizedby a
discussion of ideas andperspectives.Others,by contrast,arepersonalandhighly emo-
tional. In the latteremotionalsituation,the mediatoris motivatedto arriveat a reason-
able solutionquickly.Thus,the heuristicstrategybecomesmoreattractivein these vol-
atile settings (Bettmanet al. 1993) because it allows the mediatorto examine alterna-
tives quickly with the informationreadily at hand.
Techniquesa mediatoruses in such a situationinclude pressing,inaction (such as
simply monitoringthe dispute),or quicklysidingwith one disputant.Minimaluse will
be made of the thorough and time-consuming compensatorytechniques (i.e., the
reflective techniquesor informationgathering).

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In additionto its volatility,the importanceof the disputeandits chancesfor escala-

tion determinewhetherthe mediatoruses a compensatoryor heuristicstrategy.Spe-
cifically, importantdisputes-those that are apt to escalate and those without time
limits-dispose themediatorto use compensatory(versusheuristic)techniques.Simi-
larly,if the disputantsarehighly valuedby the mediatoror areof high status,then the
mediatoris apt to rely on compensatorytechniques.

Mediator'sgoals. To this point, we have notedthatfeasibility,perceivedcost, and

the mediator'sdecision strategyall determinethe techniqueshe or she uses. In addi-
tion, the mediatoris guided by his or her goals. It is well documentedthat such goals
strongly affect an individual's behavior.In the motivationliterature,for instance,
scholars(e.g., Locke 1991) note thatindividuals'behavioralchoices areinfluencedby
theirgoals. Likewise,in the conflictresolutionliterature,Conlon,Carnevale,andMur-
nighan(1994) reportedthatthirdparties'preferencesaffecttheirbehavioralchoices.
In mediation,numerousgoals can affect the mediator'schoice of techniques;one
such goal thatsurfacesfrequentlyin the literatureis neutrality.Often, mediatorshold
to a goal of being neutralandappearingneutralin theirmediation,andthey areadvised
by a host of social punditsas to how they shouldpursuethis goal (e.g., Rifkin,Millen,
and Cobb 1991).
This tandemgoal-to be neutraland appearneutral-does not, we predict,affect
which techniquesa mediatorselects andapplies;rather,it motivatesthe mediatorto be
equal in his or her interactions.Consequently,whichever techniques the mediator
applies to one side will also be appliedto the other.
Although the neutralitygoal dictates equal applicationfor most techniques, it
should curtailthe use of a few. To use siding is to appearandprobablybe biased.The
pressinganddistributivetechniquesarealso foreswornbecausethe appearanceof bias
comes with theirapplication.


Having examined the determinants of mediation, the mediation itself, the

approachesmediatorsemploy, and the determinantsof these approaches,we now
describe the most bountifularenafor the past decade:mediationoutcomes. Because
the munificenceof the literaturehas generatedan accompanyingcomplexity,a suc-
cinct roadsign is useful for this section.The literatureindicatesthatthe outcomesfrom
mediationstemfromtwo sources:the aggregate(i.e., entire)mediationprocessandthe
individualtechniquesused by the mediator.Becausethe aggregateoutcomesaremore
extensive,we reportthemfirst.In doing so, we note (as depictedin Figure 1) thatthese
outcomes accrueto the disputants,mediator,and otherthirdparties.


The organizationandconceptualizationof these resultsareaidedby Table2, which

providesa thoroughlisting of the positive outcomesor benefitsreportedin the recent

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 381


Recipient Outcome Reference

Disputants Agreement Brett,Barsness,and Goldberg(1996)

Satisfaction Bush (1996); Depner,Cannata,and Ricci (1994)
Efficiency (cost-effective
and expedient) Coltriand Hunt(1998); Elleman(1997)
Improvedrelationships Johnsonand Johnson(1996a); Johnsonet al. (1995);
Proceduraljustice Bush (1996); Kozanand Ilter (1994)
Favorableagreements Umbreitand Coates (1993)
Empowerment Folger and Bush (1996); Seversonand Bankston(1995)
Improvedproblemsolving Fisher (1997); Smith (1996)
Restorativejustice Bazemoreand Griffiths(1997); Sikoraand Doll (1994)
Higher compliance/
implementation Gaschen(1995); Thoennes(1997)
Mediator Reputation Touval(1996)
Social skills Day-Vineset al. (1996); Shulman(1996)
Thirdparties Time for other activities Camersonand Dupuis (1991); Shulman(1996)
Peace and decreasedviolence Day-Vineset al. (1996); Tabishand Orell (1996)
Favorableagreements Cohen, Dattner,and Luxenburg(1996)

literatureand indicates that the outcomes flow to three groups: the disputants,the
mediator,and otherthirdparties.

Disputants' outcomes. The majoroutcome for the disputantsis the agreementor

settlementof the dispute,andthe literatureindicatesthatmediationis effective in pro-
ducing this. In earlierstudies,the settlementrateon averagewas approximately60%,
with a range generally between 20% and 80% (Kressel and Pruitt 1989). Current
reportsare somewhathigher,with the averagesettlementratebeing about75%. Spe-
cifically, in divorcemediation,IrvingandBenjamin(1992) reporteda settlementrate
of 76%. In student mediations, Lupton-Smithet al. (1996) found 85% settlement.
From the legal mediationarena,Thoennes(1994) reporteda 60% to 80% agreement
ratein child protectionmediation.In civil cases, Henderson(1996) found 63% settle-
ment, and Brett,Barsness,andGoldberg(1996) reporteda 78%rate.In seniorsmedi-
ating with seniors, Cox and Parsons(1992) found an 82% agreementrate.
Whenreportingthese settlementrates,we needto emphasizethatthey varyconsid-
erablyfromarenato arena.Some disputes,such as those amongelders orbetweenele-
mentaryschool students,arerathersimple andeasily mediated.Therefore,they have a
high settlementrate.By contrast,internationaldisputesarecomplex andquitedifficult
to mediate;therefore,they have a much lower rate of settlement.
The primary disputant-specificoutcome appears to be satisfaction (e.g., Bush
1996). The literaturestronglyindicatesthatdisputantsdrawsatisfactiondirectlyfrom
mediationitself (Depner,Cannata,and Ricci 1994) for two reasons:first,the media-

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tion process has value in thatit is cheaper(Coltriand Hunt 1998), swifter (Severson
and Bankston 1995), and more enduring(Elleman 1997) thanotherforms of conflict
resolution.Second,disputantsperceiveproceduraljustice in theprocess(Bush 1996).
In addition to these benefits from the mediationprocess, the disputantsfind that
the agreementsthat mediationspawns free them from the ongoing emotional, time-
consuming entanglement.Perhapsjust as important,mediationresultsin agreements
thataretailoredto the disputants'needs andmeet the disputants'underlyinginterests.
As a result of being the product of superiorjoint decision making and fostering
improveddisputant-disputant relationships,the mediatedagreementsare more thor-
oughly implemented(Gaschen 1995; Thoennes 1997).

Mediators' outcomes.Perhapsthe knee-jerkassumptionis thatmediatorsreceive

theiroutcomes principally,if not solely, fromthe dispute'sresolution.Thatis, if they
successfully resolve the dispute,they glean credit,prestige,satisfaction,futurecalls to
mediate,andso on. The literaturefromthe pastdecadedoes indicatethatmultipleben-
efits accrueto the mediatorvia the disputeresolution.For example, he or she is per-
ceived favorablyand acquiresa reputationfor effectiveness(Touval1996) when he or
she lands a settlement.
Yet,benefitsalso come directlyfromthemediationprocesseven if the disputeis not
settled.Day-Vineset al. (1996), for example,notedthatmediationenhancesthe medi-
ator'sculturalsensitivity.And Shulman(1996) indicatedthatsome benefitsarereaped
beyondthe mediationarena.Specifically,Shulmanfoundthatmediationimprovesthe
self-esteem, grades,andattendancerecordsof studentmediators;in addition,it fosters
improvedrelationswith theircolleagues.

Thirdparties' outcomes. We note that some outcomes accruing to third parties

(other than the mediator)come directly from the mediationprocess. Several studies
(e.g., JohnsonandJohnson1996b)note thatpeermediationin schools resultsin fewer
complaintsbeing referredto teachersor principals,and Day-Vines et al. (1996) indi-
cated that peer-studentmediating helps to provide safer schools. Tabish and Orell
(1996) observedthatgang mediationhelps to providesafer campusesfor students.
In the courtsystem, we detecta similarresultin custodymediation.Thirdparties-
in this case, children-benefit. KitzmannandEmery(1994) contendedthatmediation
shields the childrenfromthe hostilityof the conflict.Emery,Matthews,and Kitzmann
(1994) noted that mediation calls public attentionto the destructiveoutcomes that
parentalconflict inflicts on children.


The studies reportedabove have examinedthe effects of overallmediationon the

outcomes to the disputants,mediator,and thirdparties.Although these studies are
quite numerousandtheirresultsquiteinformative,they do not indicatewhich specific
techniqueswithin the mediationproducethese effects.
The studies that do providethis informationare disturbinglysparse. Specifically,
fewer than 20 have addressedthis issue in the past decade. Withinthese studies, two

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 383

generaltrendsemerge:first,there is some agreementthat a high activitylevel by the

mediatorproducesdesirableresults (e.g., Henderson1996; Kelly 1996). The second
grouping of researchindicates which type of "high activity"is most productivefor
mediators. In general, the finding is that mediators are most effective when they
attemptto improvethe relationshipbetweenthe disputants,ratherthanpushingfor set-
tlement or focusing on facts (e.g., Donohue, Drake,and Roberto 1994; Kressel et al.
1994; Pruitt1995).


Having reviewed the approaches mediators take, the determinants of these

approaches,and the outcomes of mediation,we now proceed to the final topic indi-
cated by Figure 1, the determinantsof the outcomes.
In previousdecades, scholarshave focused principallyon factorsthatintervenein
mediation's effect on the aggregateoutcomes, that is, the settlementof the dispute
(ignoringsomewhatthe effects on outcomesaccruingto the variousparties).Herethey
notedthatthe level of conflict, availabilityof resources,type of issue, andcommitment
of the disputantsto the mediationwere the majormitigatingfactors.To some extent,
the recent literaturerehashesthe previousfindings.
For instance,we findthatas the level of conflict increases,the probabilityof settle-
ment decreases (Depner,Cannata,and Ricci 1995). We once again learn that media-
tion is unlikely to result in settlementwhen the disputantshave limited resources.In
addition,we findthatthe mediator'scapabilityto bringresourcesto the tableincreases
agreement(Touval1998). Thereis continuingevidencethatdisputesover some issues
aremore difficultto settle. Forexample,Henderson(1996) reportedthatdisputesover
large amountsare less likely to be mediatedsuccessfully, and Whiting (1994) noted
thatsingle-issue disputesareless likely to be settledvia mediationbecausethey do not
permittradesamong items.
The disputants'commitmentand receptivityto mediationincreasethe mediator's
effectiveness; that is, they lead to more settlements(Wissler 1995). In addition,the
community's(i.e., thirdparties')commitmentto mediationincreasesits effectiveness
(Joseph 1996).
In additionto these fourinterveningfactors-noted in earlierandcurrentstudies-
others have been detected recently.They include mediatorrank, disputants'power,
stage of the conflict, and visibility of the mediation.Mediatorrankis positively corre-
lated with the settlementof disputes (Bercovitchand Houston 1993), and this find-
ing-that high-statusmediatorsaremoreaptto obtainagreements-is consistentwith
the earlierobservationthatmediatorswho can bringresourcesto the tablearesuccess-
ful in obtainingagreements.
The second new factor-effects of power-indicates that mediators' techniques
arelikely to lead to an agreementwhen the disputants'poweris balanced(Nickles and
Hedgespeth 1991) and when both sides have the support of their constituencies
(Bercovitch 1996). The stage of the dispute is also viewed as a critical factor
(Kriesberg1991) in determiningthe effectivenessof mediation.Mediationis aptto be

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less effective early in the dispute when the partieshave not experiencedhigh costs
from the conflict, and it is also likely to provefutile if appliedso late thatthe conflict
has escalated.
A final interveningfactor is mediation'svisibility (Assefa 1992). High visibility
seems to be detrimentalto settlementbecausethe disputantsdo not havea "safespace"
to openly discussissues withthe mediator,admittheirfaults,orfollow suggestionsand
cooperatewith the mediator.Rather,the disputantsseek to appeartough and impress
their constituents.
Although the currentresearchhas corroboratedand complementedmany of the
findings from earlier years, it has also made a significant advancement.Previous
researchfocused on factorsthatmitigatedthe effects of mediators'techniqueson the
agreement.Currentworks reportfactorsthat mitigatemediation'seffect on the out-
comes to the disputantsand the mediator(Figure 1).
Shemberg(1997), for example,reportedthatexternalforcinggreatlyaffects dispu-
tants' outcomes. When one side is forced to participatein the mediation,its power is
reduced,and so arethe payoffs. Althoughforcedparticipationwill not reducethe set-
tlementrate(Brett,Barsness,andGoldberg1996), it will reducethe forceddisputant's
satisfaction,especially if the forceddisputantis alreadyweakerthanthe opposingdis-
putant(Grillo 1991).
For mediators, we find that confidentialitylargely mitigates their outcomes and
satisfaction.Mediators,in general,feel thatthey must be able to guaranteeconfiden-
tiality to the disputants(Kirtley 1995). This allows the mediatorto develop trustwith
each disputant,improvethe opportunitiesfor agreement,and glean satisfactionfor a
job well done (Brown 1991). When a mediatoris denied confidentiality-because of
a law or court ruling-then he or she is denied the above benefits and finds the task
less satisfying.


When we sum the above results and modify the orderingsomewhat,a framework
evolves that facilitatestheory buildingand an extension of the literature.In essence,
the literatureindicatesthateight factorsinfluencewhethermediationresultsin settle-
ment: conflict level, type of issue, stage of the conflict, disputants'relative power,
mediator'sresources,disputants'commitmentto mediation,mediator'srank,andvisi-
bility of mediation.
Using Lewin's(1951) force-fieldanalysis,we notethatthe firstfourfactors-conflict
level, type of issue, stage of conflict, and disputants'relativepower-raise conflict.
This conflict can be considereda force thatrestrainsthe effectivenessof the mediation
By contrast,the second four factors-mediator's resources,disputants'commit-
mentto mediation,mediator'srank,andvisibilityof mediation-increase thepowerof
the mediationprocess(Deutsch 1973), whichis a drivingforce thatenhancesthe effec-
tiveness. Using the force-fieldmodel, it seems reasonableto predictthat the relative
power of the two forces-conflict versus mediation-will determinethe extent to
which the mediationapproachesprovidesettlement/argument. The greaterthe conflict

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 385

force, the less effective will be the mediationapproaches.And the greaterthe powerof
the mediationprocess, the more effective the approaches.
This juxtapositioningunderpinsa broadhypothesisthat any factors that enhance
conflict will restrainthe mediation'seffectiveness.More specifically,we hypothesize
thatbecausedisputantanger,commitmentto position,distrustof the other,distributive
behavior,statusdifferences,and past failuresto resolve disputes all enhanceconflict
(WallandCallister1995), theyrestrainthe effectivenessof the mediationapproaches.
The secondbroadhypothesisis thatanyfactorsthatincreasethe powerof the medi-
ation process magnify the effectiveness of the mediationapproachescurrentlybeing
employed. Among these factors,we feel, arethe formalizationof mediation,the num-
ber of mediatorshandlingthe dispute,the length of time the mediationhas been prac-
ticed, the size and power of the mediator'sconstituency,the extent of the mediator's
network,the affabilityof the mediator,the perceivedspiritualsupportof the mediator,
and the absence of otherdisputeresolutionmechanisms.


In this article,ourprimarygoal was to presenta consummatereview of the media-

tion literaturefrom the past decade and organizeit in a comprehensivemanner.This
literature,we found, could be delineatedalong two facets (Figure 1). The first is a
descriptiveliterature,which indicatesthe natureof mediationitself, the approachesor
techniquesthat mediatorsuse, and the outcomes from these approaches.The second
facet of the literaturereveals more of a theoreticalbend. Herein,we find factorsthat
determine whether mediation takes place, the determinantsof the approachesthat
mediatorsuse, and the determinantsof the outcomes to the disputants,mediator,and
Organizingand presentingthis literature,we feel, contributeto the field. In addi-
tion, ourextensionsof the theoreticalaspectsof the literature-the determinantsof the
mediation,approaches,andoutcomes-also representa contribution.When develop-
ing propositionsaboutthe determinantsof mediationitself, we relied principallyon
expectancytheory.Here,we notedthatdisputantsseek mediatedassistancefrom third
partieswhen the payoffs fromthe mediationareexpectedto be higherthanthose from
the currentunassistedinteractionand when the mediationis expected to yield higher
benefits than other alternativessuch as arbitration,open conflict, or terminationof
the relationship.Thirdpartiesare also influenced by these factors, such thatthey are
apt to provide assistance when their mediationprovidesmore benefits thandoes not
When developing theories concerning the determinantsof the mediator's ap-
proaches,we relied on Carnevale's(1986, 1992) strategicchoice model and on deci-
sion theory and goal theory. With these as bases, we developed propositions that
mediators eschew techniquesthat are not feasible or thathave a high cost. From the
techniques that remain, mediators select the appropriatetechnique according to
heuristic/compensatorydecision strategy.When doing so, the mediatorsalso choose
techniquesthat are aligned with theirgoals.

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Finally,we used force-fieldtheoryas the basis for propositionsaboutthe determi-

nants of outcomes to the various parties. In doing so, we posited that factors that
enhancethe force of the conflictreducethe effectivenessof the mediationapproaches,
andthose thatincreasethe powerof themediationprocessenhancethe effectivenessof
the approaches.
Shifting from our review to the literatureitself, we conclude that mediation has
advancedsignificantlyinto many arenasover the past decade. In international,envi-
ronmental,school, divorce,organizational,consumer,andsexualharassmentdisputes
as well as in otherrealms,mediationis beingpracticed,described,studied,prescribed,
and proscribed.Moreover,the articlespresentingthis activity yield a large, complex
literatureintendedto inform and guide practitionersand researchers.
This progression into multiple territories,along with the literaturecovering it,
raisesquestionsaboutthe advancementof the mediationfield duringthe past 10 years.
The primaryquery is whetherpreexistingpractices,knowledge, and investigations
have simply been appliedto mediationsin new territoriesor if the recentapplications
have been accompaniedby andcontributedto advancementsin the field. Ourconclu-
sion is thattherehas been both advancementand retrofitting.
We arepleasedto see an emergenceof a literaturein whichthe authorsareprescrib-
ing goals for mediationas well as the approachesandoutcomesfor thirdparties.Also,
we areimpressedby the recommendationthatmediationbe used in combinationwith
otherthird-partyprocessessuchas psychotherapy,consultation,counseling,andinter-
pretation.This tandemapproachshouldenablemediatorsto betterassist disputantsin
dealing with their emotions and handlingthe social-psychologicalinteractionswith
each other. A drawbackof this approachis that it implies that mediators who are
equippedwith strongsocial process skills can mediateany dispute.Realistically,they
cannotbecause the disputesencounteredare often quite technical(e.g., they can deal
with sophisticatedareasof genetics, computerdesign and software,etc.) and thereby
requireproblemsolving as well as social skills. This being the case, we suggest media-
tors-when necessary-be teamed with partnersof technical expertise so that the
mediatorcan focus on the social aspectof the interactionandthepartnercan contribute
the technical guidance.
We felt thatauthorswere, for the most part,rediscoveringthe wheel when they dis-
cussed the outcomes to mediation. We were pleased to find strongercoverage of
third-partyoutcomes thanin previousyears, yet the reportsof outcomes accruingto
the disputantsand the mediatorappearedsomewhatredundantwith past accounts.
More disappointingthanthis redundancywas the continuedfocus on the outcomes
of the aggregateoverall mediationprocess ratherthan on the outcomes of specific
techniques. A thoroughreading of the literatureindicates that hundredsof articles
have lately been publishedreportingthe outcomes of the overall mediationprocess;
however,duringthe same period,less thantwo dozen articleshavereportedthe effects
fromseparatetechniques.Consequently,we areleft with some seriousquestionsabout
mediation.The primaryone is, Does it matterwhat mediatorsdo as long as they are
highly active andattemptto smooththe parties'relationship?A relatedquestionis the
following: What techniques should mediators use? And how can mediation be

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Wallet al. /MEDIATION 387

improvedif we areuncertainas to which techniquesworkandwhich ones areineffec-

tive? It is hoped that some of these questionswill be studiedin the next decade.


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