Perception and Misperception in International Politics. By ROBERT. JERVIS. ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Pp. xi, $ cloth, $ . Jervis, R. (). Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton, Princeton. University Press. I. Chapter 1: Perception and the Level of Analysis. This study of perception and misperception in foreign policy was a landmark in the application of cognitive psychology to political decision making. The New.

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R obert Jervis is at the same time a giant and a gadfly, a leader and a subversive in the field of international relations. In his career, Jervis has often been very much a theorist in the mainstream political science tradition. But Jervis often notes with frustration that actual policy makers often diverged from the expectations and prescriptions of his theories. Jervis thought it would have been safer and less fiscally burdensome if Washington and Moscow had fully accepted the condition of mutually assured destruction and properly understood the stabilizing effects that condition should produce at all levels of potential military conflict.

The two books reviewed in this roundtable demonstrate that Jervis is, however, much more than a mainstream IR theorist. As such, in these books Jervis seems interested in explaining how leaders actually behaved, rather than how they should have behaved according to a pure, context-free theoretical logic. His real rebellion against mainstream political science is his insistence that decision makers, at the end of the day, are human: Those individual characteristics often make them poor subjects for deductively derived, structural explanations for how rational internationao should interact given objective changes in the environment in which they operate.

That lesson is strongest and most clearly laid out in Perception and Misperception. As Jervis recognizes in the new preface, the book itself does not have a single clear theoretical take. This is true, unless, of course, one considers intelligent and historically rooted skepticism about clear theoretical takes themselves to be a strong theoretical position.

To illuminate the parsimonious power of the elegant theories, we need to get into the particular psychological makeup and perceptions of the leaders in question. Since Schelling deems successful compellence much more difficult to achieve than successful deterrence, the distinction could hardly be more important.

Without such assurances, the target has no reason to comply with the demands attached to the internationl. There is always tension between these two equally important missions in coercive diplomacy, and that tension is captured by the concept of the security dilemma: To understand successful and failed instances of deterrence or compellencewe need to comprehend not only the threatening and reassuring signals sent but how those signals are perceived intrenational the target.

In his qualitative research, Jervis is careful. Such care, however, is rarely reflected in the coding poolitics cases for large n databases in the mainstream security studies literature, which ironically prides itself on superior scientific rigor. Since humans behave very differently when protecting what they have than they do when gaining new things, how issues are framed by individuals as being in the realm of gains or the realm of losses is all important.

Perception and Misperception in International Politics by Robert Jervis

These include human emotions and biology, avenues of inquiry that Jervis himself begins to wrestle with in How Statesmen Think. As a former official myself, I agree with them. It seems fitting that these two books were published in the same year that Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, which, like the works of Jervis and Tversky and Kahneman, treats economic actors as full humans, rather than robotic utility maximizers. Perhaps deep down, they think more like Robert Jervis than their published works politiics suggest.

Stevenson Professor of International Politics and has been a member of the Columbia political science department since Lessons from the fall of the Shah and Iraqi WMDand several edited volumes and numerous articles in scholarly journals.

His latest book is How Statesmen Think: The Psychology of International Politics. Christensen is William P.

His most recent book is The China Challenge: Dianne Pfundstein ChamberlainPh. She is the author of Cheap Threats: Georgetown University Press, Pfundstein Chamberlain works on signaling and interstate coercion, and she is currently writing a book about British decision-making in She received her Ph.

Political Science and Mispedception. She is the author of four books, a co-editor of two additional volumes, and author of over two hundred academic articles across a wide variety of disciplines encompassing topics such as experimentation, emotion and decision making, and the biological and genetic bases of political behavior.

Johnson School of Public Affairs. From toMr. He is infernational recipient of the Joseph J. Professor Steinberg has an A. B from Harvard University and a J.

His scholarly work has focused on critical episodes in American and world history. Before and during his academic career he has served at all polktics of American government.

His most recent full-time position was as the Counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Secretary Rice. P erception and Misperception has been a classic volume since its original publication inand the new edition provides a major new preface that stands as an independent bookend to the iconic work. It provides a brief overview of new areas of inquiry including evolutionary psychology, genetics, and neuroscience, as well as noting the important ways in which the study of emotions has increased since its original publication.

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How Statesmen Think provides a lightly edited compilation of previously published journal articles which all fall amd under the umbrella of political psychology.

Taken together, these two works provide a fascinating and substantive journey through the sophisticated, subtle and nuanced mind of one of the most important scholars in the history of international relations.

It is no small exaggeration to jervks that Perception and Misperception largely created and defined the individual level of analysis in international relations, setting out the scope of all the work that followed.

It was, to be blunt, both seminal and definitive and, as a result, may have actually limited further work in the field because everyone who jn it felt like there was little that could be added. As a result, it is nothing if not both daunting and humbling to try to comment on the new version, or to say something that has not already been said before. Although earlier work had been done applying psychological concepts to political phenomena, internationap notably the work of Harold Lasswell in the s, none of that work really seeped into the subfield of international relations.

Theoretically, most of abd work grew out of the fascination with Freudian psychoanalysis which permeated the intellectual environment of the perce;tion sciences at the time. All ingernational this changed with the publication of Perception and Misperception, which opened up an entirely new way of studying the influence of the individual on state action.

This work clearly benefitted from ongoing developments in social and cognitive psychology, which introduced an examination of human decision-making internationak was neither grounded in Freudian notions of sex and death, nor restricted to the simple stimulus-response paradigms which dominated the early days of the behavioral revolution. Drawing on this work, Jervis misperceptiom able to examine the ways systematic and predictable biases in the human decision-making pedception could influence leaders and enlighten our understanding of international relations.

Jervis began the new preface as a talk, in response to an invitation of mine to come to Brown as part of a year-long speaker series considering the influence of psychology on other disciplines. In so doing, he took the opportunity to re-visit the ways that he might have written Perception and Misperception if he were to write it now. As with most of his observations, he is entirely correct with this one. Indeed, if anything, many of the new findings have only served to offer additional empirical strength for many of the interpretations and implications he presciently raised in the original volume.

Indeed, I think expectations and political and psychological needs…. Modern theorizing in psychology rejects such dichotomies because it tends to see such mechanisms as so intricately intertwined as to be fundamentally indistinguishable, but the labels and categories matter percption than the importance of the concepts, which often benefit from independent consideration of their influence on policy makers. Of course, any comprehensive analysis of the first of these considerations must draw heavily on the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, [6] as indeed Jervis does in the second pairing inetrnational articles in How Statesmen Think.

But of course Freud was not wrong in misperceeption argument that feelings can prove driving factors not only for beliefs but behavior as well, even if we now understand the repertoire of emotions to extend far beyond the desire and destruction Freud originally identified.

And indeed, the work of Tversky and Kahneman depends in a fundamental if unacknowledged way on the mispeeception provided by Freud perceptino of his creation of the notion of the unconscious. Among the topics that Jervis points to as new developments since the original publication of Perception and Misperception are the areas I have spent the last decade primarily exploring in my own work, including the influence of evolutionary psychology and genetics on political preferences, attitudes and behavior.

This interjational analytically useful if, like the earlier division into motivated and unmotivated biases, such separation is certainly artificial in practice. Emotion and biology are intricately intertwined, just as both processes can exist in the conscious as well as unconscious realms. Anyone who has been sick, even with a bad case of the flu, knows that biology can interfere with conscious processes in an explicit way, just as we have all had experiences of believing, however falsely, that we know why we feel the way we do about a particular person, event or policy.

Perception and Misperception in International Politics

These forces are reciprocal and integrated. But, in addition to a more extensive inclusion of emotional impetuses which Jervis discusses, there are a couple of aspects of his argument I would push perhaps a bit farther than he does. He begins by arguing that Perception and Misperception was not atheoretical, but that it was not a theory. He then goes on to say that to develop a more unified theory, scholars would either have to unify deviations from rationality internationl build a new theory from the ground up without regard to rationality.

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Perhaps this is splitting ;olitics, but I would argue that one can accomplish the latter, assuming a non-economic model of rationality. Specifically, evolutionary theory provides a parsimonious theory which Jervis notes he jevis on grounds of both elegance and memory in the introduction to How Statesmen Think from which scholars can derive testable hypotheses.

Drawing on evolutionary theory can unify seeming deviations from economic rationality through an explicit recognition of the kind of rationality driven by the goal of biological survival, which of course often privileges children over oneself.

Such a theory can provide powerful predicative power while nonetheless frequently expecting outcomes which appear to be at odds with our economically truncated notion of rationality.

Models resting on evolutionary theory have cohered a remarkable number of disciplines, from medicine through biological anthropology, biology, and psychology, around a small and simple set of hypotheses which can be derived and empirically tested.

There is no reason why such a goal cannot be attempted in the realm of international relations. Jervis argues that the limitations of evolutionary models lie in their lack of variance, because they rest primarily on the search for human universals in the psychological mechanisms that shape decision making. While this is true, some of those universals, for example emotions such as fear, appear in quite variant forms and circumstances, depending not only on the environmental triggers but also on individual dispositional variance.

To take a more concrete example, all typical humans have hair and eyes. But some eyes are blue while others are brown, just as some hair is blond while others is black.

One need not abandon a notion of variance jervie order to appreciate that difference sits on a foundational physiological platform of commonality. Human nature may be constant, but one of its constants lies in its sheer variance across individuals. Those variants may exist within a series of structural constraints delimited by biological reality, but that is no different than states existing in an anarchic world, and that reality did not stop Realists from developing a parsimonious theory to characterize state behavior.

In other words, employing evolutionary models in concert with the methods and strategies used by geneticists to uncover the predispositions for disease offers a potential glimmer of the way such a unified theory miaperception the psychological foundations of decision making around politics might emerge and proceed. Such un model might help us explain otherwise seemingly inexplicable or contradictory behaviors. To take one example, Jervis notes how often people want to oversell policies they like and seek to sublimate negative aspects of them in an attempt to avoid value trade-offs.

Citing Trivers, [8] Iternational argues that such proclivity helps people build self confidence that jedvis them to go into dangerous and prolonged ventures, including wars. Richard Wrangham has argued that military incompetence can be seen as advantageous from an evolutionary perspective; overconfidence can be over-selected if bluffing allows for victory without battle enough times to provide a reproductive advantage to those possessing such traits. Even tiny advantages can accumulate over long periods of time to shape human psychological mechanisms, having profound implications on traits as ubiquitous and important as out-group discrimination and warfare.

And ijternational Jervis is most certainly right that leaders politicx not normal, warfare certainly has been. Combat has existed in all times and all societies and it requires no stretch whatsoever to assume that small comparative advantages in i would have exerted an enormous influence over time, particularly in the age before modern weapons or medicine.

For me, the most existentially troubling aspect of the work on the profound influence of unconscious biases of whatever sort on human decision-making lies in a question that Jervis raises in passing but does not address systematically; this conundrum surrounds the extent to which any of us can percepyion any real free will independent of forces that are beyond our control, and more often than not are driven by chance, such as when and where and to whom one is born.

As Jervis notes in his discussion of how liberals and conservatives differ in their acceptance of genetic determinism, by highlighting distinctions in their relative responses to arguments that attribute intelligence and homosexuality to such forces, jervvis want to believe that biology drives destiny across all domains.

And yet if personal and professional needs, often instantiated in childhood before conscious awareness even arises, drives so many policy and other preferences unconsciously, it becomes more challenging to find a clear way to argue for the possibility of positive change through the intervention of enlightened civil deliberation. It is an honor because Perception and Misperception was one of the first books on international politics that I po,itics as an undergraduate and the one that helped to convince me that I had made the right choice in attending graduate school.

It is a terror for exactly the same reasons.