Book

The Psychology of Strategy

Kenneth Payne

Published in print May 2015 | ISBN: 9780190227234
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190492120 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190227234.001.0001
The Psychology of Strategy

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How do strategists decide what they wish to achieve through war, and how they might accomplish it? And why does their understanding of violence regularly turn out to be wrong? In seeking answers, this book draws on the study of psychology to examine strategic behaviour during the Vietnam War. It explores the ways in which cognitive biases distort our sense of our own agency and our decision-making. The Nixon and Johnson administrations both proved susceptible to processes that are familiar to students of modern neuroscience and psychology, but perhaps less appreciated within strategic studies. US strategists in the Vietnam era miscalculated in ways that would surprise rational theorists, but not psychologists: they exaggerated the stakes, embraced risky and overly optimistic solutions, and failed to appreciate the limits of force to shatter the enemy’s resolve. Their concern for reputation led to escalation, based on a flawed conception of what such escalation could achieve.

Keywords: Vietnam War; war; psychology; strategy; Nixon; Lyndon Johnson; rationality; emotion; cognitive biases; risk

Book.  256 pages. 

Subjects: International Relations

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Psychology of Strategy

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The Genius of Command in The Psychology of Strategy

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Social Identity in War in The Psychology of Strategy

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Honour, Revenge and Reputation in The Psychology of Strategy

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Shock Versus the Social Network in The Psychology of Strategy

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Risk and the Fog of War in The Psychology of Strategy

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Memory and Myth in The Psychology of Strategy

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Conclusion in The Psychology of Strategy

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