The Evidence Supports Mediation’s Selling Points.
The Maryland Judiciary has commissioned research to be conducted by independent researchers on the efficacy of mediation with small claims-type cases. The research claims to be “the only research in the country that compares the attitudes and changes in attitudes of participants who went through ADR to an equivalent comparison group who went through the standard court process.” The research also examines the long-term and short term effects of employing different mediation strategies, such as reflecting back the emotions and interests of the participants, and eliciting solutions, offering solutions, and caucusing.
The research showed significant benefits for those who went through the ADR process. Participants were more likely to resolve all their issues. They had an increase in their rating of their level of responsibility for the situation. Participants were more likely to be satisfied with the judicial system than others. They were more likely to emerge with a better attitude toward the other side, and with a higher satisfaction with the outcome.
The study also found interesting results regarding the strategies employed by mediators. In the short run, reflective strategies seemed to make participants feel more positive, though such strategies seemed not to have a statistically significant effect in any positive or negative outcomes. Frequent caucusing correlated with lower satisfaction, and with a higher likelihood of return to court. Also, “eliciting strategies” – asking participants to suggest solutions, summarizing the solutions, and asking them how the solutions would work for them – were strategies associated with a lower rate of return to court in the long run. Being directive by offering solutions was a less successful strategy than eliciting solutions.
Query whether reflecting back the emotions of participants, keeping them all in the same room without caucusing, and avoiding evaluation and directive solutions will work with equal success in more complex mediations.
Here is a link to the studies.