The road to a successful mediation is riddled with subtle obstacles that a mediator must consider. Though one cannot necessarily predict how the actual dispute resolution process will unfold, a mediator can take precautions to help ensure the effectiveness of the process, whether by deciding in advance which mediation technique to employ, or by doing a bit of research on the nature of the dispute itself before the actual mediation.
Amanda Carruthers, in her article The Impact of Psychological Priming in the Context of Commercial Law Mediation, cites the importance of psychological priming – defined as “the incidental activation of knowledge structures, such as trait concepts and stereotypes, by the current situational context’ – in mediation contexts. She concludes that “by being aware of stimuli which can cause priming behavior and thought processes, we can seek to avoid, mitigate, or minimize their impact, to benefit parties to mediation, clients, and ourselves.” In this article, I will draw upon her research, as well as others’, to assert that the serious consideration of the physical environment in which a mediation is conducted can help lead to a more productive and effective mediation process. Furthermore, the proper staging of a mediation’s physical environment, as a form of psychological priming, can influence cognitive reasoning, help mitigate intense emotions, allay power imbalances, lessen implicit biases, and foster a party’s sense of trust for a mediator.