Vividness bias impact on negotiations, collaboration, and conflict resolution

A lion camouflaged in tall dry grass

“Vividness bias is the tendency to overweight the vivid and prestigious attributes of a decision, such as salary, or an employer’s status, and underweight less impressive issues, such as location, or rapport with colleagues.”[i]

What does this have to do with a negotiation, collaboration, or conflict? Actually, quite a bit. We tend to overestimate our obvious and our strengths and underestimate the less obvious and our weaknesses. By being aware of each this can help you in a negotiation, a collaboration and in a conflict.


Relationships matter


When push comes to shove about a new job in the same or a different location with more, similar, or even less salary, what could lure someone away? How about relationships, being closer to family, working with old colleagues that had been forged from earlier joint collaborations, a better commute, and other intangibles. This is often more the case than we may realize.

Emotions play a major role in your decision making.

Weighing not only the desire of the employer, and the compensation, but other trade off factors may also and often are even more important. That is why it is extremely important to continually cultivate close working relationships that bind teams together.


Vividness bias


Picking up on the definition above college graduates may place a bigger emphasis on salary and the reputation of the firm they will be working for after graduation. Less obvious coming out of college might be elements such as the nature of their team, how well they collaborate with each other, commuting time, and benefits of location for family, friends, and fun. Job seekers tend to initially focus on the vividness bias. Experienced job seekers may to have this bias, but often with experience comes a greater appreciation for the less obvious elements that may indeed gain more prominence with time. These other elements typically play an even bigger role and cause the candidate to ask more questions, do more research, and weigh elements differently as priorities change.


Overcoming vividness bias by valuing what is most important


We tend to think our own needs are more important than those of others, so we focus on our vividness bias interests first. Knowing this

it is possible for you step back and explore your own vividness bias and to consider how to address those of the other party.

What are your biases and what may give you pause to consider once you think about it? Similarly, explore what you think are the vividness biases of the other party and what are other less prestigious elements that you may want to bring up? By asking these questions and documenting your answers, the answers to these questions can be extremely helpful in a negotiation, collaboration, or conflict resolution.


The Asking Formula


Taking a page from The Asking Formula by John Baker, here are the three steps to success.

  1. know what want.
  2. Ask for it.
  3. Have three reasons why it is beneficial for them.

That sounds straightforward. Similarly

with vividness bias, you must decide what values most to you upfront.

Before any negotiation, collaboration, or conflict resolution pause and reflect on what values to you most and why. Consider your professional and personal goals for you and your family. You have many choices along the way including what position to apply for, a promotion with more travel, a promotion with a clear glass ceiling with less travel, and other considerations. Then the question comes up what are your goals and secondarily what sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve those goals? Regardless of whether you are in a negotiation, collaboration, or conflict, by exploring what is important to you from a value standpoint will help you make a better decision. You will be able to give weight to various elements and even potentially discount vivid data.


Overcoming vividness by making appropriate comparisons


Are you rich? What does it mean to be rich? It is natural to make comparisons to others and then point out where you do not meet the expectations given the high bar you set for yourself. In terms of the world the U.S. has about 30% of the world’s wealth. In terms of the top 1% globally you need $871,320 of wealth. Looking at the top 10% globally you need $93,710 of wealth. Looking at the rest of the world 29% of the world population (2.2 billion) does not have access to clean, available drinking water, 8.9% of the word populations (690 million) goes to bed hungry every night, and 20% of the world population (1.6 billion) does not have shelter. I ask you again, are you rich? Do you have enough food to eat, water to drink, a place to call home, and adequate medical care? Then from the standpoint of the world, you are rich.

When you make unrealistic comparisons, this can cause anxiety and poorer decision making.

As a business valuer, statistics bear out that only about 24% of businesses will ever sell. Most businesses supply the employee owner with a job and when the owner leaves the business closes. Similarly, when business owners believe they are ready to sell, they overvalue their business over 80% of the time. They have unrealistic expectations of the value of their firm. A trained, qualified, business valuer can assist the business owner on the true value of the business and how to increase value with a concentrated process to improve value. The business valuer will provide an appropriate comparison.


Overcoming vividness by exploring your hidden value


Explore your hidden value. What sets you apart. What is the value added by you and your firm? Think about this in terms of ethics, integrity, honesty, passion to help clients, responsiveness, ability to listen, being a solution provider, and more. Now from an ethical perspective what can you bring up in a negotiation, collaboration, or conflict to assist the other side to see things from a different perspective?

By bringing the other party’s attention towards previously hidden positive attributes, you may be able to provide examples that would benefit the other party.

Just like the third bullet above, what do you have that will benefit the other party? Then educate the other party the way they want to be educated. Use visuals and other tools to help bring this home. By bringing up less prestigious elements and giving weight to them, it may be possible for you to be a better negotiator, collaborator, and conflict resolver. Think about this ahead of time for your next interaction. See if this can make a difference. You may surprise yourself.




There you have it. To overcome vividness bias

  1. Determine what is important to you and give it weight
  2. Make appropriate comparisons
  3. Explore your hidden benefits to them.

Good luck.




About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]