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Originally developed by applying models from cognitive psychology to the study of foreign policy decision making, the field of behavioral IR is undergoing important transformations. Building on a broader range of models, methods, and data from the fields of neuroscience, biology, and genetics, behavioral IR has moved beyond the staid debate between rational choice and psychology and instead investigates the plethora of mechanisms selected by evolution for solving adaptive problems. This opens new opportunities for collaboration between scholars informed by rational choice and behavioral insights. Examining the interactions between the individual's genetic inheritance, social environment, and downstream behavior of individuals and groups, the emerging field of behavioral epigenetics offers novel insights into the methodological problem of aggregation that has confounded efforts to apply behavioral findings to IR. In the first instance empirical, behavioral IR raises numerous normative and philosophical questions best answered in dialogue with political and legal theorists.
For all the recent discoveries of behavioral psychology and experimental economics, the spirit of homo economicus still dominates the contemporary disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology. Turning back to the earliest chapters of political economy, however, reveals that pioneering figures such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith were hardly apostles of economic rationality as they are often portrayed in influential narratives of the development of the social sciences. As we will see, while all three of these thinkers can plausibly be read as endorsing “rationality,” they were also well aware of the systematic irrationality of human conduct, including a remarkable number of the cognitive biases later “discovered” by contemporary behavioral economists. Building on these insights I offer modest suggestions for how these thinkers, properly understood, might carry the behavioral revolution in different directions than those heretofore suggested.
In a providential account of the changing relation between political economy and economics, the late nineteenth-century development of economics is identified with the rational choice model; and the revival of political economy in the late twentieth century comes with the export of this model to politics and the other social sciences. An alternative prudential account locates the revival of political economy with a significant qualification to the rational choice model. This qualification restores an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century view of rule-following to human agency. This essay sets out these accounts and draws the conclusion that the choice of one over the other matters, not least for the practice of contemporary politics.
Liberalism’s substitute for civic friendship is the Association: citizens associate to pursue their interests, according to modern theory. Yet empirical evidence shows we also join for motives of honor, pride, and the wish to cooperate. While economic models of politics (“formal models”) fail to capture these mixed motives, our modern ideal of altruism further debilitates associations by considering them low, selfish pressure groups. Associations have thus fallen on hard times, and the individual often faces off against the Leviathan state, with no mediating association. Recent attempts to improve on formal models—projects to reinvigorate the morality and rationality of cooperation, such as those of Jane Mansbridge and Richard Tuck—could benefit from Tocqueville’s comparable attempt to create an ideology of “rightly understood” interest, whereby Americans could disguise their morality as rational when it in fact relied on vestigial altruism (“disinterested and unreflective sparks that are natural to man”). Going back behind Tocqueville to excavate civic friendship would at least bring theorists, if not citizens, back into a more realistic picture of what is actually going on.
It is both academically and practically valuable to construct a multi-dimensional scale to assess the effectiveness of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) policy toward Taiwan. The author constructed a One China identity scale based on national identity theory and the CPC's political advocacy and actions toward Taiwan. Using panel data from 271 members of Taiwanese student delegations to Mainland China from 2016 to 2017, this study explored the changes in their sense of a One China identity. The results showed a significant increase (0.11, 5.19%) in the average ratings of the investigated students' One China identity. The regression equation constructed by the current study was able to explain 10.94% of the total variance of the One China identity scale, and all three hypotheses were supported. Following the exchange program, Taiwanese students appeared to have a greater sense of a One China identity. Their impression of Mainland China had improved, their acceptance of the CPC's regime had increased, and their preference for authoritarianism had increased.
The most widespread – and arguably influential – concern regarding solar geoengineering has been that it would harmfully displace emissions abatement. Notably, there was a similar objection to adaptation, although one no longer hears it. Moral hazard and risk compensation offer imperfect analogies, and the empirical evidence for their magnitudes is mixed. Public opinion studies that ask people how they would respond to solar geoengineering consistently do not imply abatement displacement and often point toward the reverse, in which solar geoengineering increases support for abatement. The chapter identifies four genuine hazards regarding the relationships among the responses to climate change. Notably, all four are challenges to governance in general and are not limited to climate change policy. These imply some, albeit limited, policy options to reduce abatement displacement. Linkages between international abatement and solar geoengineering policies have some potential. I suggest that the abatement displacement concern is widespread for reasons largely unrelated to reducing climate change and its negative impacts, but instead is grounded in political coalitions and worldviews
This paper introduces a condition for rational choice that states that accepting decision methods and normative theories that sometimes entail that the act of choosing a maximal alternative renders this alternative non-maximal is irrational. The paper illustrates how certain distributive theories that ascribe importance to what the status quo is violate this condition and argues that they thereby should be rejected.
The divide between hard law and soft law approaches to global regulation of corporations in relation to human rights is partly based on empirical assumptions. Taking a step back, we assess the claims concerning the current state of global regulation and political feasibility of hard law approaches. Moving beyond the usual suspects, we map 98 existing standards that regulate corporations and find a great variation in how different sectors treat human rights and accountability issues. Turning to the explanation of the current jungle of global business and human rights regulation, we contrast and test dominant and competing expressive theories with a consequentialist commitment curve, in which corporations and states seek to minimize human rights commitments. We find support for all approaches to regulatory reform, but argue that greater attention should be given to the consequentialist insights, and how political economy can be leveraged to strengthen regulatory outcomes.
If transparency in political finance is part and parcel of democracy, why do some countries adopt internationally agreed standards to regulate political finance in a more transparent way, while others do not? This paper (a) suggests a theoretical framework to address this question, taking into account international obligations, existing party finance regulation, and demands for greater legitimacy of political institutions; (b) introduces a unique data set of 46 member-countries of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) project operated by the Council of Europe; and (c) concludes that unwillingness to pay the high domestic costs of changing national regulation is the prime impediment to compliance with transparency regulation proposed by GRECO. Right-of-centre cabinets are, on average, associated with a poorer level of compliance. Interestingly, compliance with recommendations which reduce the privileges of parliamentary parties does not deviate from the overall pattern.
Although there has been extensive research on electoral system choice at the national level, we know relatively little about the dynamics of deciding the rules of the game for sub-state institutions. This article examines the factors that influenced the choice of a proportional electoral system for the new Scottish Parliament in 1999. Through the use of archival sources and interviews with key participants, we challenge the conventional rational choice explanation for the adoption of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) system. Although rational considerations on the part of the Labour Party were involved in the choice of MMP, our findings suggest that, as at the national level, theories of electoral system choice need to consider normative values as well.
Amos Tversky, Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely and others detect irrationality when decision makers get led astray by how a decision problem is framed. They find that test subjects respond inconsistently when the same decision problem is described differently. But when are two decisions the same? The participants in their experiments are not decision theorists and cannot be counted on to read or approach the problems ‘properly.’ They may find sources of utility where researchers least suspect, and change payoffs that ‘ought’ to remain constant.
This article aims to encourage critical reflection about the limitations of the rational choice approach as an explanatory insight to understanding older people's choice-making about their health or social care requirements. It develops an interpretive framework examining how older people engage in the process of choice-making when selecting a care option. Choice-making is conceptualised as a temporal, processual phenomenon, influenced by others, and characterised by an individual's behavioural responses to changing circumstance and lifecourse events. Data are from qualitative interviews with 29 older adults whose choice of care option involved moving to an extra-care setting in Wales (United Kingdom). Transcripts were coded using in-case and constant-comparison approaches, and analysis was undertaken using concepts of engagement and temporality as elements of the choice-making process. Using an inductive approach, a typology of six different ‘pathways to choice’ of care setting was identified; these findings suggest that choosing a care option in later life is a diverse, interactive and time-bound social phenomenon, inadequately captured by the rational choice approach where it is understood more as an individualised, linear and logical process. Recognising that choice-making evolves through time as part of a process shaped by others means service providers will be better positioned to offer opportunities for more preventative-focused interventions which empower older consumers to make planned and informed choices about care options.
We introduce a ‘reason-based’ framework for explaining and predicting individual choices. The key idea is that a decision-maker focuses on some but not all properties of the options and chooses an option whose ‘motivationally salient’ properties he/she most prefers. Reason-based explanations can capture two kinds of context-dependent choice: (i) the motivationally salient properties may vary across choice contexts, and (ii) they may include ‘context-related’ properties, not just ‘intrinsic’ properties of the options. Our framework allows us to explain boundedly rational and sophisticated choice behaviour. Since properties can be recombined in new ways, it also offers resources for predicting choices in unobserved contexts.
Understanding how people perceive the pros and cons of risky behaviors such as terrorism or violent extremism represents a first step in developing research testing rational choice theory aiming to explain and predict peoples’ intentions to engage in, or support, these behaviors. Accordingly, the present study provides a qualitative, exploratory analysis of a sample of 57 male youths’ perceptions of the benefits and drawbacks of: (a) accessing a violent extremist website, (b) joining a violent extremist group, and (c) leaving such a group. Youth perceived significantly more drawbacks than benefits of joining a violent extremist group (p = .001, d = .46) and accessing a violent extremist website (p = .001, d = .46). The perceived benefits of engagement referred to gaining knowledge/awareness, being part of a group/similar people, and fighting the enemy/for a cause. The drawbacks referred to being exposed to negative material and emotions, having violent/criminal beliefs and behaviors, and getting in trouble with the law. The perceived benefits of disengagement referred to no longer committing illegal acts, and regaining independence/not being manipulated. The drawbacks referred to exposing oneself to harm and reprisal. These findings provide an insight into how male youth think about (dis)engagement in violent extremism, and can inform future quantitative research designed to explain and predict (dis)engagement in violent extremism. Eventually, such research may inform the development of evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies.
The study of secession generally stresses the causal influence of cultural identities, political preferences, or ecological factors. Whereas these different views are often considered to be mutually exclusive, this paper proposes a two-stage model in which they are complementary. We posit that cultural identities matter for explaining secessionism, but not because of primordial attachments. Rather, religious and linguistic groups matter because their members are imbued with cultural legacies that lead to distinct political preferences – in this case preferences over welfare statism. Further, ecological constraints such as geography and topography affect social interaction with like-minded individuals. On the basis of both these political preferences and ecological constraints, individuals then make rational choices about the desirability of secession. Instrumental considerations are therefore crucial in explaining the decision to secede, but not in a conventional pocketbook manner. To examine this theory, we analyze the 2013 referendum on the secession of the Jura Bernois region from the Canton of Berne in Switzerland, using municipal level census and referendum data. The results lend support to the theory and suggest one way in which the politics of identity, based on factors like language and religion, can be fused with the politics of interest (preferences for more or less state intervention into the polity and economy) to better understand group behavior.
Claims that China's people are exhibiting a rising “rights consciousness” have become commonplace, with some suggesting this phenomenon is driving political change. Yet it is often unclear what the concept means, leading to ambiguous or contradictory conclusions from field research. In order to create a basis for more systematic analysis, we develop a rational choice framework that characterizes three different factors that could lead to rights-conscious behaviour: changing values, changing government policies, and changing expectations of the behaviour of others. What rising rights consciousness implies for social stability can vary dramatically, depending on which change is at work. Rights consciousness resulting from changes in values or in shared expectations of behaviour is destabilizing for the CCP's continued rule, whereas rights consciousness derived from government policies has a stabilizing effect. While in practice these can be interrelated in complex ways, empirical research would benefit from greater attention to these distinctions.
Here we introduce the Genetic and Environmental Foundations of Political and Economic Behaviors: A Panel Study of Twins and Families (PIs Alford, Hatemi, Hibbing, Martin, and Smith). This study was designed to explore the genetic and environmental influences on social, economic, and political behaviors and attitudes. It involves identifying the psychological mechanisms that operate on these traits, the heritability of complex economic and political traits under varying conditions, and specific genetic correlates of attitudes and behaviors. In addition to describing the study, we conduct novel analyses on the data, estimating the heritability of two traits so far unexplored in the extant literature: Machiavellianism and Baron-Cohen's Empathizing Quotient.
Eric Posner’s signaling theory of social norms holds that individuals adopt social norms in order to signal that they have a low discount rate (that is, they value the future more than the present), and are therefore reliable long-term cooperative partners. This paper radically expands Posner’s theory by incorporating internalization into his model (the sense that norms possess some sort of binding quality, an “ought to”). I do this by tethering Posner’s theory to an evolutionary model. I argue that internalization is an adaptive quality that enhances the individual’s ability to play Posner’s signaling game and was thus selected for. The idea that internalization is evolutionarily conditioned is not new; however, linking this to Posner’s theory of discount rate signals is, and doing so offers tremendous explanatory potential.
Part I identifies the limitations of Posner’s purely rational choice approach, argues for the necessity of including internalization, and then proposes a model that does so – what I call the Expanded Signaling Model of Norms (ESM). Part II examines the problems that arise when we embrace such a model. How this model answers some key criticisms plaguing sociobiology is also briefly explored. Part III then examines existing criticisms of Posner’s theory, demonstrating how the Expanded Signaling Model clearly resolves these issues. The paper concludes that incorporating internalization into Posner’s signaling model greatly broadens the explanatory reach of Posner’s theory, providing a measure of clarity and predictability regarding how and why norms are internalized – an important insight, as these beliefs form the normative underpinning to law.
While the strategic objectives of those who organize suicide terrorism may be explained in rationalist terms, the choice of those who volunteer to be candidates for death is far more problematic, given the high premium, at least within international relations theory, on survival as the ultimate rational end. The rational choice model also makes it difficult to take language or emotion into account as factors in constituting the meaning of the act. This article begins with an observation: In Western discourse the acts of human bombs tend to be referred to as ‘suicide terrorism’ or ‘suicide bombings’; by contrast the terminology of ‘martyrdom operations’ is more prevalent in the Arab and Muslim Middle East, or among Islamists in the West. The first section of the paper examines the importance of context for understanding the rationality of an action. The second explores ‘martyrdom’ and ‘suicide’ as two distinct frameworks for giving meaning to an act of voluntary death in the post-9/11 world, and the emotional dynamics that link these two ‘games’ to a larger structural logic. The third section further develops the structural logic that emerges from the interaction of the two. The conclusions analyse the significance of this argument for rethinking both the structural dynamics of this international context, as well as the theoretical model of games.
How do attachments to political parties among the mass publics of East Asia affect the process of democratization in the region? Analyses of the East Asia Barometer surveys reveal that partisanship motivates East Asians to endorse the democratic performance of their political system and embrace democracy as the best possible system of government. These findings accord, by and large, with the socialization, cognitive dissonance, and rational choice theories of partisanship.