In nearly every sport, teams that play in their own stadium or ballpark tend to have a significant edge over their visiting opponents (Courneya & Carron, 1992). But does this â€śhome field advantageâ€ť extend to other aspects of life, such as our ability to influence others?
Researchers Graham Brown and Markus Baer wanted to find out if there is a â€śhome field advantageâ€ť when it comes to influence in negotiations. They hypothesized that the location of a face-to-face negotiation would give an edge to those negotiating in their â€śhome territory.â€ť They recruited pairs of participants to take part in a simulated negotiation over the price of an annual supply contract, where participants were randomly assigned to act as the buyer or the seller. The buyers wanted the lowest price possible, of course, whereas the sellers wanted just the opposite.
The researchers used a clever methodology to manipulate â€śoccupancy statusâ€ťâ€”in other words, whether the negotiators were â€śresidentsâ€ť in their home territory or were â€śvisitorsâ€ť in their opponentâ€™s territory. To give residents a sense of ownership over their territory, before the negotiation began, residents were taken to a private office, where they were asked to: (1) write their name on a board outside the office, (2) choose the chair they wanted to sit in; (3) select some posters and postcards to place around the office; (4) fill out a schedule of their upcoming activities on a whiteboard; (5) use the internet on the office computer; and (6) hold onto the key to the office. While the residents completed these tasks, visitors were placed in a temporary location and were told that the negotiation would take place in their opponentsâ€™ office, which the resident supposedly had for a completely unrelated task. Once the residents were ready, visitors were brought in for the negotiation.
Consistent with their home field advantage hypothesis, Brown and Baer found that residents outperformed visitors. In other words, buyers succeeded in negotiating a lower price when they were residents compared to when they were visitors, and sellers succeeded in negotiating a higher price when they were residents compared to when they were visitors.
These results suggest that there does seem to be a home field advantage when it comes to influencing others. But why? The home field advantage observed in sports can be due to any number of reasons, including familiarity with the quirks of the field, inspiration from a friendly crowd, or referees who are easily swayed by the collective groans of 50,000 people. But none of these explanations could have possibly played a role in this research. Instead, two other experiments suggest that the setting of the negotiation may influence both residentsâ€™ and visitorsâ€™ confidence. Specifically, the evidence suggests that relative to a neutral-location control, negotiating in oneâ€™s own territory boosts oneâ€™s confidence and negotiating in the opponentâ€™s territory reduces oneâ€™s confidence.
If negotiators benefitted from a bargaining advantage when â€śresidingâ€ť in a location they had only been in for 20 minutes, imagine how much more powerful the effect could be for real-world locations such as oneâ€™s home, personal office, or office building. This research has clear implications for where negotiationsâ€”and presumably, other attempts to influenceâ€”should take place. If your target of influence asks you to come to his or her location, you should at the very minimum insist that the setting be in a neutral location, which will prevent that person from having the home field advantage. But, whenever possible, asking your target of influence to come to your location will increase the likelihood that, when you eventually step out of your office to announce the outcome of the negotiation to your colleagues, the crowd will go wild.
Brown, G., & Baer, M. (2011). Location in negotiation: Is there a home field advantage? Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 114, 190-200.
Courneya, K. S., & Carron, A. V. (1992). The home field advantage in sports competitions: A literature review. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 14, 13-27.