Bullard Houses Role-Play Simulation Helps Researchers Explore Gender Inequality

By — on / Teaching Negotiation

role play simulation

In a recent Slate.com article, writer and PhD in Psychology Jane Hu described the findings of a research study by Professor Laura J. Kray, University of California, Berkeley.

Kray, along with co-authors Jessica Kennedy, PhD, and Alex Van Zant, PhD, investigated the role gender played in negotiation and focused specifically on whether the stereotype of women being more easily misled than men, was actually true.

Instrumental to their research was the use of Bullard Houses, a role-play simulation currently available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC), which is part of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. In the study, the researchers examined different areas of gender bias in negotiation and, in the process, examined whether female negotiators were seen as being easier to deceive in negotiations. To help test the theory and create measurable outcomes, the researchers used the TNRC role-play simulation Bullard Houses with a group of 298 MBA students. Their findings were quite startling.

“We found that in the role-play, people were significantly more likely to blatantly lie to women,” says Laura Kray, the lead author of the study.

“Men were more likely to be given preferential treatment.”

Bullard Houses is particularly useful for a study like Professor Kray’s for a number of reasons.

  • It is a two-person exercise, which means it is relatively easy for a game manager or teacher to run
  • The role-play puts emphasis on parties understanding and evaluating their BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)
  • Given the level of confidentiality, there are many opportunities for parties to disclose, distort, or conceal key information that could affect an agreement

You can see the Bullard Houses negotiation game being played by participants in this short video.

Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

Most TNRC materials are designed for educational purposes— for use in college classrooms or corporate training settings. TNRC cases and exercises help mediators and facilitators introduce their clients to a process or issue and help individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Videos are also a helpful way of introducing viewers to key concepts, and TNRC books, case studies, and periodicals address the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.

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