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Misperception and the Cause of War: Theoretical Linkages and Analytical Problems By Jack S. Levy

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Political Science
POLI 354
Mark Brawley

Misperception and the Cause of War Theoretical Linkages and Analytical Problems By Jack S LevyIntroductionAim of this article to provide a conceptualization of the forms of misperception and theoretical linkages by which each may contribute to war under certain conditions I The Literature Previously political Scientists have never taken misperceptions into consideration while creating theories about the cause of war Scholars have constructed rational models of conflict based on the assumption that statesmen perceive external threat accurately and hence select policies on the basis of a costbenefit calculus game theory in order to serve national interests Literature has been concerned with the analysis of the sources of misperception but not their consequencesII Forms of Misperception 1Study made by Robert White identifies 6 different forms 1 diabolical enemy image 2 virile selfimage 3 moral selfimage 4 selective inattention 5 absence of empathy and 6 military overconfidence2John G Stoessinger suggests similar categories1 a leaders perception of himself 2 his perceptions of his adversarys character 3 his perceptions of the adversarys intentions 4 his perceptions of his adversarys power and capabilities and 5 a leaders capacity for empathy The Utility of these concepts is limited because they fail to differentiate bw misperceptions and the sources from which they arise For Ex selective inattention is a psychological process leading to misperception as well as images of the adversary are more a set of beliefs that may generate misperceptionsAnother failure of these theories is that it is difficult to determine the accuracy of perceptions The concept of misperception is meaningful only if there exists a correct perceptionThe author argues that forms of misperception must be defined in a way that they can be compared to correct perceptionsHe therefore suggests 2 central forms of misperceptions1 Capabilities2 Intentions1 Robert HWhite Nobody Wanted War Garden City NY 19682nd John G Stoessinger Why Nations Go to War 2 Ed St Martins Press 1974
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