Newsflash: the more powerful party in a claims negotiation tends to be a risk-taker and comes out better in the give-and-take mainly by trying to take more than he or she gives.

That is the research finding by a team of construction scholars from the People’s Republic of China.

When I read some non-news like that, it makes me ask, “Does social science serve the construction industry?”

I’ll grant you that the generation of researchers now working in college departments of construction management are applying the lessons of psychology to construction in some innovative ways. Like much social science, some of what is “discovered” is simply confirmation of what is obvious and intuitive.

Something like that could be said about the work of researchers from Tianjin University in the People’s Republic of China. They say they have learned that the more aggressive you are in a claims or change negotiation, the better you will do.

If you are the bigger or deeper-pocketed party to a claim, the researchers seem to say, you’re better off pushing hard against a more pliable and accommodating negotiating opponent/partner.

 That a trio of researchers in the People’s Republic—Associate Professor Wenxue Lu and post-graduate students Lihan Zhang and Zhi Li—finds this interesting is interesting to me. The researchers say they collected 115 valid surveys from project managers, engineers, economists and other contracting employees. They wrote about their research findings in an article published online in July in the Journal of Construction Engineering & Management. The journal is published by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Wenxue, Lihan and Zhi say that, after performing numerous regressions to analyze their data,  the “higher-power party” in a negotiation of a claim tends to be a risk-taker. The conservative party often adopts obliging behaviors, The more obliging party is inclined to project “adverse negotiation outcomes, whereas collaborating and avoiding behaviors are greatly beneficial.”

Fair enough. Sounds like so many other instances where the more powerful party, with deeper pockets, can take advantage of its power in settling disputes.

Common in construction, common in many industries.