Recently, I have been reading, “The Evolution of God” by Robert Wright. See his web site at http://evolutionofgod.net/ He uses the “zero-sum” concept in his book. I have been coming across this concept in many contexts lately. Wikepedia say, “In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. Zero-sum can be thought of more generally as constant sum where the benefits and losses to all players sum to the same value… Cutting a cake is zero- or constant-sum, because taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others. In contrast, non-zero-sum describes a situation in which the interacting parties’ aggregate gains and losses is either less than or more than zero.” It has been my experience that zero sum can also be diagnostic of a person’s view of situations. For instance, I have found that Conservatives are tend to see things as zero sum and Liberals tend to see things as non-zero sum. As usual I try to apply ideas to divorce. It is my experience that Adversary or Traditional Divorces are zero-sum and Mediated Divorces are non-zero sum. You can always find both in either type of divorce. If you can identify if a party is zero-sum or non-zero sum, it helps to determine how they will problem solve or negotiate. Once you know this it makes it easier to resolve the case. A note of caution, you try to explain to the parties if the pie is constant or can be made larger but you can’t usually convert a zero-sum person to a non-zero sum person.
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