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Decision-makers, Decision-making

Political Science
Course Code
John Haines

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International Relations: Week 6 - October 19, 2010
Individual Rational
Classic Rational Choice Model:
- About choosing what you perceive as the best option given the ability to fulfill your objective
- Some assumptions:
o All information is available, farfetched assumption
o You are rational, you are able to define a hierarchy among your options, able to
calculate the costs and benefits attached to the options
- Has given rise to Game theory, formal ways of analysing decision-making
o International Politics is a game of Chess, one move leads to another
o Formal way of looking at international politics
o Useful when looking at deterrence
- Limited model as all the information is most of the time not available, amount of uncertainty is
much larger than certainties
- Goal must be precisely defined, not always clear
- All options must be on the table, today decision makers }v[ZÀooZ]u]vZÁ}oU
cycle of news media is a huge pressure on leaders making decisions
o Kennedy in 1962 was able to control the media, today, impossible, leaks are part of the
daily life, media far more decentralized than it used to be, time pressure on decisions
are enormous
- Bounded rationality (vs. Instrumental rationality), a rational process of thinking but the
advancement of cognitive psychology has shown that individuals do not demonstrate very often
a true instrumental rationality (bounded rationality)
o Often individuals do not maximise expected utility, rather they will pick an option that
satisfies their minimal objective
o With satisfaction it is based on a sequence rather than a calculation
o Decision maker Á]oo}}vZ[(}µvv}]}vZuZ]](]}v]]U
first one that seems to be good enough
o Do not review all the options, pick first one that seems good enough
- Utility: rational choice model makes assumption of an individual to attach an expected utility to
an outcome
o In world politics, difficult to quantify benefits and costs, unless linked to military
capabilities, resources, then you can make an educated guess
o Impossible to quantify intangible factors (e.g. justice, status), most of the time artificial
to estimate utility (uncertainty principle)
E.g. Choice of state to enter an alliance, leader has to assess the existence of a
threat that would justify finding allies in order to combat the threat

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x Even if assess a threat, can try to negotiate, pass problem on to
someone else, try to remain neutral regarding the threat
o Decision to join the alliance needs objective of balancing the
Can balance domestically (you decided to launch
armament program), can try to find help, allies, external
balancing, you may also come up with conclusion that
only way to solve it is to launch an attack (prevention
vs. Pre-emption)
o Once join alliance, how will alliance combat the threat, what will
be the impact of joining alliance on your enemies, on the
- Rational choice has suffered discoveries:
o Human values are truly irrational, attach different values to gains and losses
Depends on willingness to take risk, cognitive psychology has determined that
individuals tend to fear losses rather than acquire gains (more risks to protect
what you loss, fewer risks to acquire gains)
Prospect theory t reference point, point from which you will assess gains and
losses, explains why we attach different values to losses and gains, leads to
some irrational effects
x Endowment effect
o You have just gained something, immediately you consider this
gain is the new normalcy, you attach a specific utility to that
E.g. At end of Cold War, rational behind NATO
disappeared, US decision makers determined NATO
winning was a normal thing, discussion to end NATO
was dismissed
x End of scenario where NATO would disappear
at end of Cold War was dismissed
- Belief system of leaders are important to determining why an objective was decided by a
decision maker
o Image of the world that a decision maker may have, implicit assumption that a leader
will have about the world of international politics
Importance of a belief system in decision-making process
Belief system may be flexible, pragmatic leader
May also be value-charged, strong belief system, not very flexible
Belief systems are extremely resistant to change, once a belief system is created
in the mind of a leader, it is difficult for him to change that belief system, painful
for an individual to change his mind, modify his belief system
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