Dispelling Illusions of Rigor

Jeffrey A. Friedman

in War and Chance

Published in print July 2019 | ISBN: 9780190938024
Published online April 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190938055 | DOI:

Series: Bridging the Gap

Dispelling Illusions of Rigor

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This chapter explores the psychology of assessing uncertainty in international politics. It presents a series of survey experiments that test important concerns about the extent to which transparent probabilistic reasoning could potentially warp the quality of foreign policy analysis and decision making. The most important of these concerns is the idea that clear assessments of uncertainty create illusions of rigor that make leaders insensitive to risk. Contrary to this assertion, the chapter’s experimental evidence suggests that decision makers’ choices are sensitive to subtle variations in probabilistic reasoning, and that making this reasoning more transparent encourages decision makers to be more cautious when placing lives and resources at risk. These experiments involve hundreds of real national security professionals and thousands of non-elite respondents.

Keywords: international relations; national security; probability; intelligence analysis; political psychology; heuristics; bias; survey experiments; decision making; elite decision making

Chapter.  11779 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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