In every mediation, there is always some party that predicts the future. Phrases such as “There is no way that we can lose this case,” “most likely we will win,” or “the judge will never rule that way,” are frequently mentioned. The reality, however, is that people are generally very bad at telling the future The reason for this ineptitude is for several reasons.

First, according to a study in the journal of Social Pyschology, we are 30% more accurate at predicting performance for a third party than we are at predicting our own future performance. According to the research, we base predictions about others on hard facts, but brush aside our own failures or shortcomings as aberrations.

Second, Yale psychologists have discovered that when we are in the middle of a “game” we are less likely to predict the performance of the game than when we are hypothetically playing the game. In other words, if we are in the midst of a problem or activity, our impartiality is less than if we were hypothetically thinking about that same activity.

Third, Casino operators count on the next bias which is often called the wishful thinking bias. Researchers have discovered that when there is an equal chance of a good outcome versus a bad outcome, study participants tend to believe that the good outcome will occur despite knowing that the evidence is contrary.

These biases demonstrate one of the powerful tools of mediation. Having an “unbiased” third party help to look at the outcome and evidence. A neutral mediator doesn’t or shouldn’t suffer from these biases; indeed, according to the first study, the mediator — when presented with all the facts — should have a higher likelihood of predicting the future than the parties themselves.

However, the mere fact that a mediator may be unbiased does not mean that the mediator’s views are determinative. They are merely helpful guides and perspectives that you may not otherwise see because you are too entrenched in the game or simply have a case of “wishful thinking.”

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