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Agent Selection and Belief Polarization In Distributive Bargaining
While a large literature has examined the potential misalignment of interests between principals and agents as a driver of impasse, the process that precedes such relationships has been neglected: the selection of an agent. In this paper, we examine agent-selection in bargaining and show that principals select overly aggressive agents to their own detriment. Across two preregistered experiments (combined n = 2,180), we find that the agents sent to the bargaining table are more polarized in their views than are potential agents in general (Study 1), as well as the principals whom they represent (Study 2). Agent-selection increases the impasse rate and makes both parties worse off than if they were assigned an agent at random. Conditional on engaging in agent-selection, both parties could improve their respective outcome by unilaterally selecting a less aggressive agent.