Teaching behavioural insights in dispute resolution

As part of an ongoing research project,  I’ve been looking at the impact of behavioural insights on mediation (and dispute resolution more broadly).   By ‘behavioural insights’, I’m referring to fields such as cognitive neuroscience, behavioural economics, social psychology,  all of which have been recently made accessible to non-experts through popular books such as  Nudge, Thinking, Fast and Slow and Blink.   

This project is directed at a critical analysis of the impact of these fields on core concepts such as self-determination in mediation.   However, that’s a post for another day  (and in fact a forthcoming book chapter), where I explore the challenges of these fields for foundational concepts in mediation, such as self-determination and party autonomy.   

However, in the process of undertaking this research I have come across some very good teaching resources from the University of Texas’ Ethics Unwrapped site.   I plan to use these in my teaching this semester, as they offer some insights into cognitive biases that, as mediators know only too well,  are common to participants in disputes.      Some of the topics that I have found particularly useful include  –  loss aversion,  framing, and fundamental attribution error.


Dispute Resolution, in Person, for Real

So, I’m excited!

Along with 13 other members of the ADR Research Network, we have been meeting in the glorious sunshine at Queensland University of Technology’s Garden Point Campus this week. Meeting for real, in person. With coffee in hand and fuelled by victuals kindly provided by QUT law school, we have be discussing the most difficult aspects of dispute resolution theory and practice.

The ADR Research Network was founded in 2012 by a group of dispute resolution academics from across Australia. We live and work in the far corners of this big country, from Hobart to Townsville, from the Gold Coast to Bundoora. Some of us are mediators, some lawyers, some legal philosophers, educators and we all live and breathe dispute resolution. We had all met at conferences before and read each others’ work over the years and a few of us have even written together. But we wanted to do more than just see each other occasionally and referee each others’ work: we wanted to engage with each other on what we are working on, we wanted to debate the hard stuff, we wanted to share a laugh.

As well as running this blog, we have decided to write a book together, based around the theme of changing professional identities for both lawyers and mediators in dispute resolution. The increased use of ADR and institutionalisation of processes such as mediation challenge us to rethink the role of lawyers and mediators in dispute resolution. Questions arise such as is mediation now a profession? Is there a single mediation community or are there multiple communities of mediation practice? How do we train lawyers to achieve justice in mediation? What is the basis of an ethical decision making process for mediators? How best do we define mediation and is that important? Should neuroscience affect mediator practice?

The most exciting thing about our book project is that it is so collaborative in nature. Each chapter will be written by a single author but with extensive feedback from the group as a whole and from individual authors. This will create a highly reflective and tightly structured collection that we hope will be central to understanding contemporary dispute resolution practice.

We are still writing and putting together a book proposal. To give you a sense of what we are all writing about, here’s a way to see the tweets we have made over the past few days at the workshop. We have been using the hashtag #adrresearchnetwork. These tweets summarise the ideas raised by each author in our chapters and some of our thoughts around the table as a group.

Stay tuned …

Mediation in the Media

Last night, I watched Episode 1 of Series 2 of Redfern Now,  a compelling Australian drama on the ABC.   That episode contained a number of scenes that would be useful for teaching mediation or dispute resolution, including a mediation between a grandmother and her son-in-law, as well as a coroner’s court scene.    In fact, there are quite a few useful, and some amusing, examples of dispute resolution in the media.    Together with Nicole Cullen of Cullaborate, I have a Pinterest board where I’ve been archiving media clips that I have come across.   If you know any,  feel free to let us know in the comments below!    The link is http://www.pinterest.com/cullaborate/mediation-in-the-media/

Australian Government Productivity Commission Call for Submissions

The Productivity Commission is still seeking submissions on access to justice arrangements. Its remit definitely includes dispute resolution, with its terms of reference specifically seeking submissions on (amongst other things):


alternative mechanisms to improve equity and access to justice and achieve lower cost civil dispute resolution, in both metropolitan areas and regional and remote communities, and the costs and benefits of these

Submissions can be emailed to access.justice@pc.gov.au