The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 12 No. 2 • April 2009

A Secret for Successful Negotiation: Fish

No, we don’t propose negotiating with fish, but treating a person or persons with whom you are negotiating to a leisurely cold water fatty fish meal beforehand to increase your chances of getting them to accept your offer. Here’s how it worked as described in a recent study.1

Researchers doing the study hypothesized that low serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids, having been associated with increased hostility and decreased impulse control, might have a measurable effect on the willingness of people to accept offers made to them in the ultimatum bargaining game. You may recall our discussion (or have read about it elsewhere) that, in the ultimatum bargaining game, two players negotiate over the division of a given amount of money. The proposer (who initially has the money) offers a split with a responder. If the responder accepts the offer, they make the division and keep the proceeds. If the responder rejects the offer (as “unfair”), neither proposer or responder gets any money.

The ultimatum game has been a popular method of assessing how people make economic decisions, including fuzzy modulating concepts such as “fair” and “unfair.” A 50:50 split in the ultimatum game would be (as reflected in results of studies) considered “fair,” while most would reject a 10:90 split as “unfair.”

In this particular study, the researchers measured fasting serum alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, another omega-3 fatty acid), as well as linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and arachidonic acid (a product of omega-6 fatty acids) in sixty undergraduate economics students. The results showed that the ratio of serum omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids was significantly lower in individuals who rejected “unfair” offers as compared to those who did not. There was a significant depletion of ALA, EPA, and DHA in the rejectors of “unfair” offers.

We make no guarantees concerning the outcome of your negotiation, but it would appear that you can reduce the likelihood of irrational rejections of perfectly reasonable offers on the basis of biases concerning “fair” and “unfair” by feeding those with whom you are negotiating a cold water fatty fish meal (rich in EPA and DHA) — wine along with it would probably improve the absorption of the omega-3 fatty acids — at a good restaurant before you get down to business.


  1. Emanuele et al. “Serum omega-3 fatty acids are associated with ultimatum bargaining behavior,” Physiol Behav 96:180-183 (2009)

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