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Psychological Factors and Foreign Policy Decision-Making

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					Psychological Factors and
 Foreign Policy Decision-
         Making


 PO 326: American Foreign Policy
         Psychology as Theoretical
              Augmentation
► Each  of the three perspectives we have studied
  posits that the “personalities” of foreign policy
  actors can shape their actions
► The psychological perspective, more any of the
  other three, allows for a systematic understanding
  of how some personality attributes shape the
  actions of individuals
► The psychological perspective also allows analysts
  to identify and correct other explanatory failures
  and shortcomings of the three perspectives (e.g.,
  impact of perception on rational choice)
     The Psychological Perspective of
            Human Behavior
► Individual   Psychology:

   The study of the individual mind, or of what
    mental impetuses cause individuals to do what
    they do

   Generally, individuals act based on the need to
    equilibrate their mental states
    • Their actions in the outside world reflect their desire to
      make that world easier for them to comprehend
    • Individuals may also act to satisfy a perceived void in
      their psyche which is created by past experience
     The Psychological Perspective of
            Human Behavior
►   Group Psychology:

   Individual psychological attributes are important factors in the conduct
    and eventual products of group interactions

   Specifically, an individual’s psychological needs (e.g., belonging,
    acceptance, self-worth) can determine the content or extent of their
    group involvement

   When interacted with the needs of other group members, these needs
    can also work to influence the eventual decisions reached by a group

   Further, the psychological rewards that group membership provides
    (belonging, etc.) may cause members to view other groups with
    suspicion, which in turn colors the group’s decisions regarding other
    entities (related to parochialism)
How Does Psychology Affect Foreign
     Policy Decision-Making?
► We will focus mainly on three facets of the
 interaction of psychology and foreign policy:
   How psychological factors can cause actors to ignore or
    misinterpret international events and signals
    (unmotivated bias in cognition and signaling)
   How psychological factors can substantively bias actors’
    attitudes, especially toward other international actors
    (motivated bias in cognition and signaling)
   How psychological factors can impact high-level foreign
    policy decision-making in groups (groupthink)
Unmotivated Bias in Foreign Policy -
            Cognition
۞   Derives from the observation that the world is complex,
    and that understanding can only be achieved by viewing
    the outside world with internally constructed “heuristics”
►   Decision-makers fit incoming information into existing
    theories/images generated by previous experience
    (cognitive dissonance)
     Misperception of events or of the intentions of others is less likely
      when individual concepts exist to make understanding easier
     Reliance upon existing concepts colors thinking (e.g., Pearl Harbor
      analogy in CMC)
     Decision-makers sometimes do not recognize that events validating
      their images can also validate other images (e.g., Vietnamese
      communism perceived as threat to US way of life, not vehicle by
      which revolution could be achieved)
Unmotivated Bias in Foreign Policy -
            Cognition
► Decision-makers are wedded to the
 established view and generally closed to
 new information
   Example: European attitudes toward Nazi
    Germany in late 1930s
► Contradictory information is more easily
 assimilated when it comes in small amounts
 and not all at once
   Example: Nazi invasion of Soviet Union in 1941
Unmotivated Bias in Foreign Policy -
            Signaling
► Messages sent from individuals with different
 concerns and backgrounds are likely to be
 misunderstood
   Careful formulation of decisions/messages are assumed
    by sender to be clear, but often are not received as
    such (e.g., Kennedy’s national address and
    Khrushchev’s initial reaction)
   Failure to conceal intentions often taken as clear
    transmission of those intentions (e.g., American
    diplomacy leading up to First Gulf War)
   In general, actions intended to convey a signal are not
    received as such
    Motivated Bias in Foreign Policy
► Tendency to see other states as more hostile than they
  actually are (security dilemma)
► Tendency to believe that more hostile states do not share
  the same values, and that more friendly ones necessarily
  do
► Tendency to see other states as more centralized,
  disciplined, and coordinated than they actually are (e.g.,
  linkage of likely Soviet actions to high-level decisions)
► Tendency to overestimate the degree to which favorable
  behavior is a result of one’s own actions, while attributing
  intransigence to the internal forces of the other (e.g.,
  success of quarantine vs. Khrushchev’s second letter)
► Foreign office’s position often taken as sole position of the
  other state
                        “Groupthink”
►   As key political decisions are often made in small groups, psychological
    group dynamics can influence outcomes
►   High degree of cohesion results in desire to produce consensus
      Desires of individuals to avoid espousing unpopular beliefs and
       avoiding sole responsibility for implementing unpopular decisions
       drives them to avoid conflict
      What often results is “playing up” of majority opinion (sometimes
       by engaging in wishful thinking), ignorance of unpopular though
       useful alternatives
      CMC – JFK strove for consensus, but worked hard to avoid
       groupthink (not present at all meetings, several possible
       alternatives)
      *CIA in lead-up to Iraq – according to 9/11 Commission and
       Congress, the omnipresent notion that Iraq had WMD blinded the
       CIA to apparently contradictory evidence
               RISK EXPERIMENT
►   Illustration of psychological “prospect theory”
►   Question 1: If given a choice, would you rather accept 4
    free extra credit points, or take the chance of guessing the
    outcome of a coin toss, with 8 extra credit points resulting
    from a correct call and 0 points resulting from an incorrect
    call?
►   Question 2: If given a choice, would you rather accept a
    certain deduction of 4 points from your final grade, or
    would you take the chance of guessing the outcome of a
    coin toss, with a deduction of 0 points from your final
    grade resulting from a correct call and a deduction of 8
    points from your final grade resulting from an incorrect
    call?
►   Importance of loss aversion

				
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