Carrot-and-stick negotiation

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Carrot-and-stick negotiation (CSN) is a type of behavior displayed during negotiation in which the conflict is seen entirely as a power struggle rather than a matter of differing understandings of fact. It is characterized by the offering of incentives ("carrots") and disincentives ("sticks", or argument from force) to persuade the other party towards one's desired course of action, without any interest in altering one's own goals in the light of new facts or arguments which might be introduced by the other party. The incentives and disincentives are often very visceral in nature, i.e. rewards and threats intended to appeal to the more survival-oriented aspects of human nature – the "fight or flight" response – which tend to override other considerations, especially that of rational thought.

In a carrot-and-stick negotiation process, the winner is not the one whose arguments make the most sense, but the one who is seen as "strongest" (via criteria yet to be determined but which seem to be based in hardwired notions about social dominance inherited from the early days of humanity's existence). "Winning" means getting to set the entire agenda for what will (or won't) be done in response, and "losing" means having no input at all into what will or won't be done. A CS negotiator tends to avoid the subject of what they plan to do if they "win", though they will often make inflated or entirely false statements about what the other side plans to do; this helps keep the debate stirred up, preventing the relevant facts (which would ultimately resolve the issue against the CS negotiator) from playing a significant role.

CS negotiators may also use other rhetorical deceptions and logical fallacies to gain the "upper hand", e.g. ad hominem attacks, guilt by association, and so on.

To the extent that this style of negotiation disregards objective evidence and the common good, it is essentially psychopathic in nature.

surface similarities

It should be noted that carrot-and-stick negotiator (CN) can often seem superficially like a rational negotiator (RN). Despite the CN's ultimate disinterest in facts, s/he is often quite aware of their persuasive effect on other people, and will thus take them seriously as elements worthy of discussion. The difference is subtle on the surface, but may become apparent via such clues as (for example) a CN's disinterest in the details of a fact, or belief that two facts are equally persuasive when there is far less evidence for one than for the other.

By the same token, a genuine rational negotiator (RN) may seem to be paying more attention to how a fact is popularly perceived than what it actually means, but this could easily be due to the necessity of convincing other (less well-informed or less rational) people that the rational course of action is in their best interest.


The correlation between this type of thinking negotiation and a disproportionate emphasis on popular opinion over objective fact may explain why so many people in positions of power seem to have so little grasp of reality (and why a disproportionate number of them seem to tend towards psychopathic behavior).

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