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Mediation and Neuroscience: Does The Room Make A Difference?

Wednesday, June, 26, 2013



A therapist's office is often painted soothing colors to help calm patients, and real estate agents can spend hours staging a house to make it look as appealing as possible.  Small details do make a difference and researchers are looking into changes that can be made in mediation rooms to promote agreement and harmony between disputing parties. 


Mediators and law school professors are at the head of the research work suggesting that how the room is set up and even the scents within it can have an impact on the success of the mediation.  The underlying goal is to set the scene for productive and meaningful conversations.  The practice of mediation to date can be different depending on the location and the mediator.  Many experienced mediators have developed tricks of the trade based on other cases they have worked with. 


Some researchers contend that if mediators are trained in how the brain works, they'll be able to approach the mediation process with a deeper understanding of how to construct conversations to lead parties to a resolution.  Two examples of current techniques for mediation are priming and framing.  These are filter mechanisms that can affect how a person perceives and acts in a situation.  Priming, when done properly, can make a person feel as if they are in a fair atmosphere.  The words and tone used by the mediator can help set up the conversation as a neutral one.  Framing involves the mediator's ability to describe how the initial transaction happened, taking care to use specific words that don't put either party in a position of feeling "at fault."


Researchers say that if both parties feel as though they are "not losing" as opposed to feeling as if they are "winning", mediation may be considered more successful and lead to a more speedy final decision