The Cognitive Revolution and the Political Psychology of Elite Decision Making

Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton
UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy

Alex Hughes
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) – Department of Political Science

David G. Victor
UC San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy

July 3, 2012

Abstract:

Growing experimental evidence in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics is shaping the way political science scholars think about how humans make decision in areas of high complexity, uncertainty and risk. Nearly all those studies utilize convenience samples of university students, but insights from that work may not be directly applicable to decisions that are made by political elites. We survey the nascent empirical literature on elite decision-making and look at six areas where the insights of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics are particularly relevant for political behavior and where evidence suggests that experienced elites differ from convenience samples. These differences suggest testable implications for theories of political decision making, which we illustrate in one major area of political science theory — crisis bargaining.

The Cognitive Revolution and the Political Psychology of Elite Decision Making

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