The Psychology of Presidential Decision Making

Stephen G. Walker

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199238859
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 The Psychology of Presidential Decision Making

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This article argues that there has been considerable progress in conceptualizing and measuring the psychological characteristics of US presidents. It further argues that an alliance between psychological theories of the personal presidency and rational choice theories of the institutional presidency may have a multiplier effect on progress in analyzing presidential decision making in the domestic and foreign policy domains. Specifically, the article suggests a future research agenda for studies of the personal presidency that focuses on decisions and on the psychological sources of risk orientation and strategic choice as features of presidential decision making. The empirical data indicate that presidential personality traits, motivations, world view, and cognitive processes are most directly linked to the pre-decision, diagnostic stage of the decision-making process. It also shows that the degree of rationality depends on the degree to which positive and negative consequences are identified and taken into account when making a choice.

Keywords: presidential decision making; psychology; US presidents; rational choice theories; institutional presidency; domestic policy; foreign policy; personal presidency

Article.  11999 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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