Breaking Impasse with Science: Using the Latest Research on Neuroscience and Decision Making to Get Parties to Move | Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution | School of Law | Pepperdine University

Breaking Impasse with Science: Using the Latest Research on Neuroscience and Decision Making to Get Parties to Move

Faculty:  Robert A. Creo and Selina J. Shultz

In mediation, mediators are the facilitators of the parties and the attorneys' decision-making process. We are hired with the expectation that we possess a "refined" grasp of this process with the ability to help attorneys and clients elevate their thinking to make smarter, better settlement decisions than they were able to make outside of mediation.


To help mediators refine their grasp on the decision making process, there are ever increasing amounts of research on neuroscience and decision-making becoming available from both neuro and social scientists. However, trying to assimilate research that is evolving at an overwhelming rate into our practice can be challenging. The question is how can mediators practically apply this sophisticated research to our every day mediation sessions to both elevate the parties' thinking to make better settlement decisions, while also improving our own decision making as we structure the process?


This course will transform the academic research into informed practical application by helping participants digest the results and hone their own mediation process accordingly to help parties who are stuck to free themselves from their own decision-making obstacles.


This course incorporates psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, research on attorney decision making, and the 50 years of combined mediation experience of the instructors. Students will learn about well-known barriers to disinterested analysis, factors correlated with poor-quality decisions and adverse outcomes, the incidence and magnitude of settlement-decisions errors, and methods they can employ to improve decision-making and problem-solving skills for themselves and also for the parties and attorneys who appear before them in mediation.


What students will learn:

  • Best practices to facilitate holistic decision-making
  • How to slow down thinking to improve the decision making process
  • Successful communication skills and methods
  • Psychological attributes of decision bias and error and how to short-circuit them
  • Role of identity, ego, credibility and reputation and how to effectively address them
  • Attributes of effective mediators
  • Patterns of behavior and habits that improve decision making
  • Myths, mirages and magic of moving beyond impasse

Bob Creo is an internationally recognized mediator and arbitrator, as well as the cofounder of the International Academy of Mediators and Mediators Beyond Borders. His experience spans over 30 years including training business people and lawyers in the areas of mediation advocacy and decision making. Creo has served as a mediator and arbitrator since 1979 and has mediated/arbitrated cases in almost every area of the law. He has also worked with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the Office of Fair Employment Practices, as well as for Major League Baseball and the National Football League. He has spent much of his career developing and teaching mediators, arbitrators, and lawyers teaching credit courses at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Duquesne University School of Law (where he co-teaches the first law school credit course on attorney judgment and decision making), and Penn State. He has published extensively and currently writes for the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) newsletter. He cocreated the Master Mediators Institute, which, in conjunction with well-known professors, developed courses at Duke and UCLA. Creo also codesigned the dispute resolution system for the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, numerous medical malpractice claims systems for major hospitals and insurers, and product liability and employment systems for Fortune 500 companies. He has worked internationally in England, Serbia, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine. Creo was also a Fulbright Scholar for the U.S. State Department.

Selina Shultz is a highly sought after mediator and consultant in dispute resolution, who works with individuals and businesses. She has over 17 years of extensive mediation experience. Shultz currently serves as the codirector of CoralBridge Partner's Conflict Transformation Institute. In addition to her private mediation practice, she served for 13 years as a mediator for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. She is currently on the approved mediator panels for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the EEOC, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. She is a popular lecturer and trainer in the area of dispute resolution and has worked with individuals and businesses to provide both basic and advanced trainings in mediation and conflict resolution skills. She is an adjunct professor at Duquesne University Law School, where she co-teaches the first law school credit course on attorney judgment and decision making. She has served as a leader in the field, most recently serving on the boards of both the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators and the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania, and helping to launch the Western District of Pennsylvania's Prisoners Civil Rights Mediation Pilot Program. She obtained her JD in 1993 from the University of Pittsburgh and her LLM in dispute resolution from the Straus Institute at Pepperdine University School of Law.