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Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp. 489-510 Published by: International Society of Political Psychology Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3791847 . Accessed: 24/08/2011 06:26
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Political Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2000
The Effects of Stakesand Threaton ForeignPolicy Decision-Making
Department of Political Science Texas A&M University
Decision research demonstrates that individuals adapt decision processing strategies according to the characteristics of the decision task. Unfortunately,the literature has neglected taskfactors specific toforeign policy decisions. Thispaperpresents experimental analyses of the effectsof the decisional stakes(i.e., salience of the values at issue) and threat (risk of loss on those issues) on decision-makers' informationacquisition patterns and choice rules with respect to one offour hypotheticalforeignpolicy scenarios. Contraryto is the notion thatnormative(rational)decision-making more likelyin less dramaticsettings, the results indicate that elevated threat encourages rational decision processing, whereas heuristicprocessing was more prevalent in less threateningsituations. Interestingly,the added presence of high stakes magnified both threat effects. These results, although preliminary, suggest that stakes-threateffects are not direct reflections of stress and/or in complexityeffects, but should be consideredindependently foreign policy analyses.
KEY WORDS: foreign policy decision-making,process tracing,choice rule
Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy decision-makershave grappled with an expanded arrayof decision problems. This has been the case especially in the areasof securitypolicy and the use of U.S. militaryforce abroad. Whereasin the past most decisions were associatedwith significantthreatsto key nationalsecurityconcerns, revision of the bipolarsecuritycalculus has increased the rangeof decision problemsto includea greaternumberof issues of lower stakes and lesser threats.For example,policymakersin the Bush administration, withina shortperiod, grappledwith decision events thatrepresented-and were perceived to represent-four distinct stakes-threat classifications.The initial interventionin Somalia in the final days of the Bush administration seen as a low stakes-low was threatdecision whereintervention considered"relatively'cheapandeasy' and was
0162-895X ? 2000 International Society of Political Psychology Publishedby Blackwell Publishers,350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 IJF, UK.
a type of processingheuristicused by foreign policy decision-makers. 1971.& Ramirez. 1977.g. in creatingthe international outcome).. AmbassadorRobert Oakley. see also Paof payoanou. interests"in Bosnia was and while the natureof the fighting and logistical difficulty of a military unclear.1977.1980. Finally. & 1996. Specifically: 1.whereasthe transferof that operation to the war fighting of Desert Storm clearly involved higher risk and thus representeda high stakes-high threatdecision (Haass.e.1992.e.S. a substantialliterature has explored in but (i.etc.S. 69-70). a key member of the NSC staff at the time. Although these studies have enhancedour understanding the impactof environmental factors on decision processing.& Thachuk.g. 1968. Suedfeld. which types of ing I As reportedby Richard Haass (1994. Maoz.S.rather thantheprocessingstrategies usedin makingthe choice. research demonstrates decision-makers a rangeof decision that use Experimental on of strategies contingent the characteristics the decisiontask(Hansen& Helgeson.. 1995).1994. Coupey. salience of the values at issue) and the threat to critical assets and personnel that a decision problem represents.. and colleagues (e. Richard Haass (1994. Powell. 1984) have tendedto focus on the outputof a decisionprocess.S..North.g. Suedfeld& Tetlock. of adapttheirdecision strategiesto the stakes-threat The degree to which two key decision processes-information processing and choice strategy-are associatedwith differentdecision environmentsis examined.the administration's of Saudi Arabia under the bannerof OperationDesert Shield was considered a relatively high stakes-low threat intervention. Related studiesby Hybel (1993) and Khong (1992) providecase analyses of "analogizing" as 1993).490 Astorino-Courtois worthit. manyof thesestudies(e. Suedfeld. in an April 1995 discussion group at Texas A&M University.1993.andhow. of 1990). . Allison.sendingU. Payne. (1997) and the work of Tetlock."1By contrast. with a few exceptions they have generallyfailed to explorethe processingeffects of foreignpolicy-specific factors. Smith.Holsti.Johnson. 1981. makersof foreignpolicy characteristics a decision task. has concurred.Brecher. casualtieswould be high in the event of an decision to send U.. Do foreign policy decision-makersuse differentdecision strategiesaccordto the stakes-threat characteristicof the decision task? If so. & Brody. 1997) reportedthat the "importance U. the involvementof leaders'perceptions of threat.The central questionguidingthepresentresearchis whether.1988.Payne.Bettman. forces to the desert intervention. pp. but the task factors that affect remainlargelyunexplored.This hasproduced considerable a bodyof workon the impactof variousdecisionfactorsin the evolutionof interational crises (e. Bettman. groundforces into Bosnia for manyqualified as a low stakes-high threat decision task. pre-choicebehaviors As noted.2 Within the foreign policy analysis subfield. crisis)situations has decision-making thecontextof highstakes-highthreat theseto othertypesof decisionsettings.Tetlock. two task factors that are of growing importancein post-Cold War decision-makingare the stakes (i..Suedfeld. 1994.& Johnson. operationin Bosnia suggestedthatU.Haney. stoppedshortof comparing Methodologically. 2 Exceptions include Mintz et al.Wallace.
Brecher& Wilkenfeld.g. principles. In addition.New York.4The threatis then defined in termsof the anticipated loss of assets (e. Hermann. foreign policy decision analyses typicallymergedecision stakesandthreatfactors(see. and where the potential benefits justify the potential costs and sacrifice.he said. isolatingthe stakesfrom the threatlevels thatcharacterize particular a decision event leaves the stakes associated with that event as a function of the salience of the interests.whereasthe latteris typicallydefined in terms of "memorableness.Thus.. 203).. 1997."3 More formally. p. e. and task They are also distinct. (1968) identifiedthe salienceof a particular issue substantively to a decision-maker-the individual's degree of "involvement"in a decision situation-as a crucial variable in explaining his or her decisions.5 January1993. where its applicationcan be limited in scope and time. 4 The salienceof an international event is not the sameas the salienceof information aboutit.Bush was describingan evaluative guide includingassessmentof the perceived salience of the issues involved and the nation's ability to address them. because these authors(like many others)limited theirstudyto international crises. 1992).or values at issue. it is unclearto what degree the notion of decisional involvementis relevantin less critical settings. humanand materialcosts) associatedwith action or inactionin that instance.1961). As for example the Bush administration's decisions to invade the stakes were perceived to be critical)or whetherto send troops to Iraq(where Bosnia (where the stakes were generallyperceived to be low). .. Is there an association between the stakes-threatpropertyof a decision problemand the type of choice rule used? Stakes and Threat as Decision Task Factors PresidentGeorgeBush outlinedthe Duringthe last days of his administration." the accessibility and ease of recall from memoryof certainbits of or information(Posavacet al.. as a result of the focus on crisis decision-makingand the need to distinguish these settings from others.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making 491 tasks are associated with the more cognitively taxing information processing strategies? 2.Holstiet al. Following the conceptuallead of Holsti et al.. Indeed.S. crisis: principlesinvolved in a decision to intervenemilitarilyin any international where and "Usingmilitaryforce makes sense as a policy where the stakeswarrant. The former is takenhereto referto the presenceof criticalnationalconcerns.West Point. However.g. a high-threat decision problemmight involve projectionsof a numberof casualtiesor a large monetaryexpense. . In foreign policy decision-making. 3 Addressto the U. policymakersshould anticipatea gain (or savings) in termsof criticalassets associatedwith takingany action. when force can be effective. as excerptedin Haass (1994.. MilitaryAcademy. regardlessof the natureof large the issues at stake. the salience of and threat to national interestsare criticallyimportant interrelated characteristics. Stasser. 1982.
in particular. research has also associated increased motivation with indicatorsof normative decision-making. Paquetteand Kida (1988). The stress associated with restricted time for a decision.). 6 These studies measurethe complexity of the decision task (i. Nevertheless. On the otherhand. 1985. 1988).5Second.Cognitivecomplexity reflects the degree to which a decision-maker differentiatesand integratesdiversebits of information in makinga choice (Astorino-Courtois. 1997. 1997. the effect of the stakes-threat characteristicof a decision event-two of the most prevalenttaskrelated considerations in the foreign policy setting-remain untested..First.complexity. of 1977). individualstend to shift to effort-saving. whereas task complexity (Payne. Suedfeld& Tetlock. and reducing decision accuracy (Mandler. (1990).Studiesas substantivelydiverseas those by Olshavsky(1979). 1982).like choosingbetweengambles" unambiguous that fail to capturethe complexity of real decision-making. 1990) by limiting informationsearch(Brecher.and dimension-based Jacoby(1975) and Stone andKadous(1997) showed thatdecision accuracyis lost as well.andLuce (1996). Payne et al.the severity of the value trade-offs. Holsti. andpsychology.. and PelhamandNeter (1995) have foundthatas choice problems become more complex. decision tasksarerepresented "well-structured as tasks. 1981). The wide literature decisional stresseffects has shown thatelevated stress on levels can work to diminish decision performance (Maoz.has been found to evoke the use of simplifying and cognitively less demandingdecision strategies (e. 1976. presumablybecause decision-makersare forced to evaluate only the most criticaldecision information(Lebow. 1993). Payne. Ostrom and Job (1986).especially as comparedto most foreign policy problems. acceleratingnoncompensatory processing (Ben Zur & Breznitz. the researchon stress. 1985.andmotivationeffects on foreignpolicy decision-makingcan provide some direction. . Webster.1980.consumerchoice.e. Maoz. the numberof dimensions and alternativescontainedin the decision matrix.including expanded informationsearch and considerationof a greaternumberof decision alternatives(Posavac et al.nondecision strategies. & 1995. Bettman. 1979).. Payneet al.analysesof the effects of the complexityof a decision taskgenerally indicatethat more "difficult"decision problemsencouragethe use of simplifying decision heuristics.elimination by aspects).6 compensatory. decision tasks typically tested in experimentalanalyses involve relatively simple choices between equally simple or straightforward alternatives.Barner-Berry Rosenwein. 1976) refers to the characteristics the decision problem itself (e.etc.g. lexicographic decision-making. 5 Keren(1996) commentedon the bias associatedwith the (easier to where study)gamblingparadigm.g. its structural complexity) ratherthan the cognitivecomplexitywith which a decision-maker that approaches problem.. because the balance of this work has been conducted by analysts of humaninformation processing. and relatedly.. Similarly.492 Astorino-Courtois Are foreign policy decision-makersany more diligent in evaluating high stakes-high threatdecision problems than they are in situationsinvolving less importantissues or lesser potential losses? Two difficulties arise for analysts interested in the task factors that affect foreign policy decision-making under variousconditions.
g.decision-makers (i. if seems to support oppositeproposition we believe thatmakersof national the policy aregenerallyhighlymotivated at decision-makers. Although university undergraduatesare not generally known to be decision-making experts.and seeminglyconflicting)suggestions on contexts. Decision-makers processunderhigh stakes-highthreat and conditions.. The hypothesesto be tested are: tend towarddimensionalinformation Hypothesis1. For the sake of clarity. research has shown that they can provide reliable empirical estimates of the variance between experimental groups (e. . yields only restricted aboutthe likely effects of stress. and Motivation effectsresearch dimension-based. that decision strategies will most clearly represent cognitively taxing. however. Decision-makersuse noncompensatory threat situations.complexity. as decisionstakesandthreat woulduse less simplistic rise.and Instruments Decision process data were collected accordingto a between-groupsfactorial were randomly design in which 140 Texas A&M University undergraduates assigned to receive one of the four hypotheticalforeign policy decision problems outlined below. motivation decisionprocessingin the variousstakes-threat stressandcomplexityresearch be usedto anticipate can stakes-threat effectsif we are to accept two assumptions: decision-makers consistentlycognitive that are willing morequestionably) perceivedtaskcomplexityand/ordecithat misers. This paper reportsthe results of a test of stakes-threateffects on two importantdecision processes: the individual's information processing pattern and the choice rule used..e. That is.Specifically.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making 493 is it (and Althoughthe existingliterature clearlyinstructive.thereis currentlyno way to gauge with precision which decision strategyor strategieshave been used in a given circumstance. Experiment Design. It is possible. 1990).and (perhaps If sion stressrise in parallelwith stakesandthreat. leastin the politicalarena. to identify a number of decision processes associated with normative and heuristic decision-making (Ursic & Helgeson.Thatis. and do more compensatoryprocessing as stakesstakes-high threatdecline. choice strategiesin high Hypothesis2. more decisionstrategies.the test hypotheseshave been phrasedas suggested by the stress/complexityeffects literature. Sample. noncompensatory decision-making.we could then expect higher stakes and higherthreatdecision problemsto elicit simplified. towardalternative-based ing processing as stakes-threat diminish. these conditionsobtain. whereas simplifying decision strategieswill appearwhen stakes and threatare high. normative (rational) theories of choice under low stakes-low threat conditions. cognitivelydemanding) Research Design and Methods Withoutthe benefit of invasive researchtechniques.
cease fire is not enforced.) Low stakes-low threat (monsoon in Rongkur): A monsoon has caused deadly flooding in the impoverished nation of Rongkur. Bosnia." Kabyli troops are believed capable of overrunning Zubani in as few as 5 days. van Schie & van der Pligt.5 High stakes-low threat Low stakes-high threat 5. If the previously brokered U.4 High stakes-high threat 8 For the sake of congruitywith analyses of decision-makingin the actual cases.7 These are summarized below. Unless these are restartedimmediately. Nearby Elodoteur has supplied heavy weapons to Elodowi fighters. Zubani is now threatened by a Kabyli attack apparently intended to re-annex its "lost province. high stakes-low threat. The fighting and flood damage have now halted critical relief efforts by internationalaid agencies.respondents . The experimental manipulation (independent factor) in this study was the foreign policy decision setting as distinguished by stakes and threat levels.1 7. High stakes-low threat (Zubani-Kabyli conflict): The oil-rich nation of Zubani. a former province of Kabylia.8 (The full text of the first scenario. recently won its independence after years of bloody civil war. 1990.. and disease.2 6. the scenarios were based on the criticalelementsof the Bush administration's Somalia. Experimentparticipants' posttest stakes and threatratings(1 = lowest to 10 = highest. together with the text of the corresponding decision matrix.5 million flood victims will die of starvation and water-borne disease. 1993.2 4. for both) also served as a reliabilitycheck on the manipulation. Participants received decision scenarios representing one of the four experimental treatments: low stakes-low threat. appears in the Appendix. 1997.N. starvation. Each scenario described hypothetical international situations to which the United States was considering a response. 1. In addition. andDesert Stormdecisions. Low stakes-high threat (warfare in Teursho): Intense fighting continues between Teurshonis and Elodowis on the island nation of Teursho. Payne et al. Wealthy land-owners there are taking advantage of the devastation to mount a violent campaign to oust Rongkur's socialist government. There is also no evidence that experimental subjects adapt choice strategies according to whether the consequences are known to be real or hypothetical (Wiseman & Levin. 1995). neither domain experience nor expertise appear to affect processing patterns in unstructured decision tasks such as those studied here (Devine & Kozlowski. who have dominated the bitter interethnic fighting. or high stakes-high threat choice problems. low stakes-high threat.DesertShield.2 3. Mean scores by treatment groupare as follows: Treatmentgroup Self-reportedstakes Self-reportedthreat Low stakes-low threat 4. Stone & Kadous. 1996.8 6. accuratelyassessedthe intendedstakes(83%)andthreat (89%) for each setting manipulation. but would not engage a defensive force they could not defeat. more than one-quarter of Teursho's civilian population will die from injury.494 Astorino-Courtois Hansen & Helgeson.1 5. 1996). 7 In an independent samplepretest. 1995).
treatments1 to 4). this option is a 4. untila participant consisted of a short As in Mintz. and Carnes(1997). an informationcell from the high stakes-high threat scenario at the "U.andas a sourceof income from black market. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.For example.. collection of the decision process data is invisible to the subject. Any uranium to expandAssiam's small arsenalof nuclearbombs.000 Assiami casualties-a figure certain to incite international condemnationand limit our ability to influence reactions to future world crises.Most studiesof information processing use some form of informationdisplay board(IDB) in an experimentaldesign (Nakajima& Hotta.1 Participants as neededto maketheirfinalchoice. the sale of uraniumon the international Procedureand DependentMeasures Experimental Process tracing is a research technique that allows observation of various indicatorsof an individual'schoice strategy. as well as a numeric evaluation. air strikes"choice alternativeon the "international affairs"dimensioncontainedthis text:"Somenationswill criticizeunilateral action as reflectingU.This is clearly an effort to exploit takenfromPathanwould likely be used Pathan'srich uraniumfields. (1997) and Mintz (1999). Information displayedin the 4 x 4 matrixwas hiddenfrom view moved to "open"the cell by clicking it with the computermouse. a Macintosh-basedIDB platform.nationalsecurity. . a successful strike could cause 25. a nation has listed by the StateDepartment a sponsorof international as terrorism. and only one cell could be were instructed access only as muchinformation to opened at a time.was used in the present study to trace subjects' informationprocessingpatternsand final choice. IDBs present subjects with an alternative(rows) by dimension (columns) matrixof decision informationand "trace"subjects' moves through the decision set. 10 This constraint a resultof the problemsof interpreting is searchdatacollected in a multi-accesssetting. The Decision Board.Also. cell information assessment of the impact of an alternativeon a given dimension.Stakesand Threatin ForeignPolicyDecision-Making 495 High stakes-high threat (Assiami invasion of Pathan): Assiam. we allowedthe participants on to take brief notes if desired. Redd. and domestic opinion. To limit the possible effect of this constraint the decision strategyused. occupied the mountainregion of neighboringPathan.e.S. foreign relations.9 Participantsbegan the experiment with a practice exercise to familiarize themselves with the Decision Board.S. 1989). Geva.After readingthe assigned decision scenario (i. In experiments where computerized IDBs are used." Informationcells could be accessed only once. disregardfor the views of the restof the world. whichthey indicatedby clickingon the desired 9The Decision Boardplatformwas developed by Mintz and Geva (1997) and applied in Mintz et al. they returnedto the Decision Board to view information regardingthe consequencesof four choice alternatives(specific to each scenario) on four value dimensions:the economy.
The cognitive processing demands of the former are greater than those requiredto comparealternativesalong a single dimension. 12TheBillings-Schererindex = (a . on the other hand.496 Astorino-Courtois alternative. d is the numberof consecutive moves on the same decision alternative.d)l(a + d). to use of simplifying strategies at the other. Processing pattern. Values of 1See Payneet al. Alternative-based decision-making that an individual considers all (dimensional) informationon a given implies alternative beforereviewinginformation the next alternative on (Mintzet al. is indicated by Payne.e. only a single alternative-to-alternative comparison.d)(a + d + s) (1) where a is the numberof consecutive moves within the same decision dimension.12Because dimension-to-alternative alternative-to-dimension and moves are not figured into the Billings-Scherermeasure. where a = total alternative-to-alternative moves and d = total dimension-to-dimension moves. As shown in Table I.At the end. An experimentsession lasted about30 to 35 minutes.. The PS index was amendedto accountfor the full pathof a decision-maker's informationacquisition (i. s is the and numberof dimension-to-alternative alternative-to-dimension or shifts. index is a revisedversion of one proposed by Billings and Scherer (1988) that measures an individual's information the processingby subtracting numberof alternative-based (i. Dimension-basedprocessing. the values of each factor fall along a continuum from the expectations of cognitively demanding. normative decision models at one end.e. 1997.The PS in measureis a conceptuallysimilarbutmoresensitiveindicator the cognitiveeffort of a decision-makerhas expendedin gainingdecision information. The PS index was calculatedas PS = (a . (1988. each participant completed a brief posttest questionnaire. for example. 1976).it can fail to distinguishbetween genuine alternative-based processing and a patternof indiscriminatemoves throughthe matrix with. The two dependent measures are indicators of importantdecision operations: informationprocessing patternand choice rule..1 A processing strategy (PS) index was developed to measure the degree to which participants'acquisition of decision informationfollowed a primarilydimensionalor an alternative-based The processingpattern. Participants'information processing strategies were evaluated according to their pre-choice moves through the decision matrix as recordedby the Decision Boardprocess-tracer. nonsequentialcomparison of alternativeson a single dimension at a time. . 1993) for morecompletediscussionsof the cognitivedemandsassociatedwith variousdecision strategies. it includes non-dimensionaland non-alternativebased shifts) so as to minimize the indeterminacy the originalmeasure. dimenmoves throughthe decision matrixfromthe numberof dimension-to-dimension) sion-based moves. and dividing by the total numberof these moves..
an elected official might considerher popularityratinga critical aspect of all dimensionwill offset a low policy decisions. an additive rule is typically applied and the maximizing alternativeis chosen.g. 1990). the decision-maker began his search of the 4 x 4 decision matrix by accessing information on the implications of Alternative 2 for Dimension A (labeled "1" for the first information cell accessed).e. PS = (2 . Normative decision models (e.. so that a high value on one dimension can value on another. Summaryof ProcessingCharacteristics Decision Strategies by Cognitively demanding (normative)strategies Pattern Rule Effort-saving(heuristic) strategies 497 Alternative-based < < < < > > > > Dimension-based Compensatory < < < < > > > > Noncompensatory Pattern Rule this index range from -1 (completely dimension-basedprocessing) to 1 (completely alternative-based processing). Payne et al.. A choice process is noncompensatory in a multidimensional if. Alternative1 Alternative2 Alternative3 Alternative4 Dimension A Dimension B Dimension C Dimension D 8 9 1 7 5 4 2 3 6 In this example. 1997. then.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making Table I.Once compensatorytrade-offs compensatefor an unsatisfactory are made. economic stability). value across all decision dimensions). Choice rule.Noncompensatory processingis identifiedas a simplifyingheuristic(see Mintz & Geva. .more cognitively demandingcompensatorychoice allows interdimensionaltrade-offs.g.e.a low score on one decision dimension(e.. By comparison. nationalsecurity)cannotbe offset by a high score on anotherdimension (e.. The second dependentmeasure taps the compensatoryversus natureof the decision rule an individualhas used in makinghis noncompensatory or her final choice.. expected utility) generallyassume compensatorydecision-making.For example..The following illustrateshow the PS scores were calculated.125. alternativesassociatedwith popularityratingsbelow her threshold value-even if the overallmaximizingchoice-are rejected. problem. Because no value on a "noncritical" popularityscore. Following Equation 1.Decision alternatives associatedwith the low value areeliminatedfromfurther consideration despite theiradditivevalue (i. then shifted five times and ended with one alternativebased comparison (between Dimensions C and D on Alternative 1). rational. indicating only a slight amount of alternative-basedprocessing.g.weighted additive value.1)/(2 + 1 + 5) = . examined the impact of Alternatives 2 and 3 on that Dimension). He next took two dimension-based moves (i.
anda represents number in the of (information)cells of the decision matrixaccessed on each alternative z. only as relevant to a "critical"dimension. on Dimensions C and D).An individualusing a simplifyingnoncompensatory rule.to 16. so on.e. and . systematic compensatorydecision-making. can be much more selective in accessing information.e. Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 Alternative 4 Dimension A Dimension B Dimension C Dimension D Number Considered 8 9 2 1 7 5 3 2 4 2 3 6 2 CSalt= (2 3)+(2 - 2)+(2 - 2)+(3- 2) + (3 . indices were developed to measurethe variance Consistency-selectivity(CS) in the amounts of informationsearched across decision alternatives(CSalt)and decision dimensions (CSdim). uneven) searchcan be construedas reflectingthe use of a noncompensatory rule. CSdim scores were calculatedas CSdim = --Xu waum / awm (3) wherem is the numberof dimensionsin the choice set.. The authorsarguedthata comprehensiveand and search of decision informationis requiredto supportmore complex. CS scores range from 0. and so on. two cells on Alternative3.Searchconsistency-selectivityon decision alternatives(CSalt) was calculatedas CSalt= I _n n Vy n=l ayn n=l azn (2) wheren is the numberof alternatives the choice set.2)1 = -1+0+0+1-1+01 =3 Reading across the row for alternative1. this study.for example.Z 498 Astorino-Courtois How can we identifythe extent to which a compensatory noncompensatory or choice strategyhas been used? Payne et al.2) + (2 .. we see thatthe decision-makeraccessed two informationcells on that alternative(i.e. anda is the numberof cells accessed on each dimension u. representingthe maximum complete consistency selectivityin the4 x 4 decision matrices. w. however. uniformtypes and amountsof informationaccessed) can be taken as an indicatorof a compensatorychoice strategy. Three informationcells were searchedon Alternative2. consistent search (i. (1988) suggested the conceptuallink between the consistency-selectivitywith which an individual accesses decision information the choice ruleused. Consequently. indicating In in informationsearched. The following example illustrates calculationof the CS measures.. and y.and highly selective (i.
andMaoz andAstorino(1992) andAstorino-Cour- tois and Trusty(2000) for applications. and rji is the rank given to alternativei on dimension j.50. 14Problems that involve only a single dimension or alternativeobviously score low on trade-off complexity as well. . Both subjectiveand objecof tive measuresof task complexity were made.44. Summing the absolute differences in the numbersof cells accessed on each alternative according to Equation 2 yields CSalt= 3. The complexity scores calculated for the four decision scenarios were all near the middle of the range (low stakes-low threatTC = . Scores nearing 0 indicate choice problemsthatrequireminimalvaluetrade-offsin orderto reveala single optimizing alternative. Controls on time stress and complexity effects. and each was unrelated to the PS measure.'4 Scores nearing 1 reflect highly complex decisions that involve multiplealternativesrankedas nearopposites on all dimensions.07.Stakesand Threatin ForeignPolicyDecision-Making 499 two cells on Alternative4. p = .rq)2 (4) =lq=j+l i=1 nm2(n2 -1) where n is the numberof decision alternatives(four in this case). and numbers of dimensionsand alternativesso as to minimize the effects of time-relatedstress and decision complexity on decision processing. That is. high stakes-low threat TC = .43).informationload. An objectivetaskcomplexitymeasurewas figuredfor each of the fourdecision scenariosaccordingto the severityof the value trade-offscontainedin its decision matrix. 13See Maoz (1990) for a discussionof this measure. Participants'own evaluations of the complexity of their decision task were assessed by way of a post-experimentquestionnaireasking them to rate its diffito culty on a scale from 1 (very easy/straightforward) 10 (very complex). The PS index was not significantly correlatedwith perceived task complexity (r = -. there was no immediate indication that participants systematically adapted their decision processes to accord with either the perceived or the structuralcomplexity of their decision problem.13 TC scores range from 0 to 1. high stakes-high threat TC = . The four manipulations decision setting were designed with equal time constraints. indicating a fairly consistent search and the use of a compensatory strategy. m is the number of value dimensions (four again).Trade-offcomplexity(TC) scores were computedas n m-1 m 12 TC= X (r .54). low stakes-high threat TC = . Figuring Equation3 in the same mannershows an equally consistent search on dimensions (CSdim = 3).34.
.35.low stakes-high threat. 115) = 5. p = . creatinga literal"no-brainer"). in participants the high stakes-high threattreatment groupengaged in the highest degree of alternative-based processing (PSgl= .An ANOVA of (combined)high. low stakes.348..theremay be some interaction betweenthe stakesandthreat factors.high stakes-low threat. p = .l= . is .e.and low-threat treatmentgroups shows this relationshipto be quite strong [F(1.38. choice high stakes.contrary the hypothesizedeffect andregardlessof the stakesinvolved. presumablyreducing the cognitive effort allotted to that The problem(i.557. both treatments high-threat promptedrelativelymore alternative-based processingthan did either low-threattreatment. high stakes appearto intensify the heuristic(dimensional)processing alreadyassociatedwith the low threat level. a closer look reveals to that.500 Astorino-Courtois Analysis and Results Test 1: Stakes-Threat Processing Strategy Effecton Information Is the processingpatterndecision-makersuse contingenton the stakes-threat characterof the decision task? A one-way between-groupsanalysis of variance (ANOVA)15was conductedto identifythe effect of the stakes-threat manipulation (i. the "treatment" having received one version of the four differentdecision scenarios.e. differences of observationswithin treatmentsfrom the overall treatmentmean). In fact. The ANOVA shows a nearly significantmain effect of the stakes-threat task = 2. In other words.and high-threatdecision tasks can be distinguishedby the presence of high stakes. Was the effect on information manipulation processing[F(3. alternative-basedprocessing strategies.e. and a tendency to use simplifying heuristicsin evaluatingless threateningproblems. the low.high stakes-high threat)on the orderin which individualsreviewed decision information. The dependentfactorwas the PS index.t = . it provides evidence of processing diligence in high-threatforeign policy settings.22. 13].07. 115) consistentwith hypothesis I? Figure 1 shows mean PS scores (rangingfrom -1 = puredimension-basedto 1 = purealternative-based processing)for the four treatment groups.t = . As shown in Figure 1. low stakes-low threat. same effect appearson the other end of the scale.29] of decisional stakeson participants' of processingstrategy. which suggests that the threatposed by the decision problemwas a significantfactor in the use of more demanding. 115) = . On one end of the scale.The impact of the stakes on the use of alternative-based versus dimension-baseddecision strategies is less clear.Interestingly. PShigh threatkl = . 15 of Between-groupsANOVA refersto the partitioning total variabilityin the datainto the differences between treatment means on two or more groups plus the residual effect (i. The presence of highly salient nationalinterestsin a setting that is also highly threateningserves to increase the extent of cognitively taxing. Althoughan ANOVA failed to show a strongeffect [F(1.03.43)..07].p = . In assessing stakes-threat effects. PSlow threat.
The results of this first test show a significant move to alternative-based decision strategies associated with elevated threat.5 high stakes- low stakes- low stakes- high stakes- low threat low threat DecisionType high threat highthreat versus dimensionalprocessingby treatment. Test 2: Stakes-Threat Effect on Decision Rule The second test explored whether the stakes-threat characteristics of the foreign policy decision problem altered the choice rule decision-makers used (hypothesis 2). the limit of statisticalsignificance. Again. The ANOVA shows the level of threat (high vs.09. individuals engaged in more cognitively demanding 6 Because the F statisticused here is a two-tailedtest.89. Further testing is warranted.is takento be p < .t = 2.25 E -0. Tests were conducted separately for search consistency on alternatives (CSait) and on dimensions (CSdim).0 CD _ .as is general convention.76] on the choice rule participants used in making a decision. . low) to have a weak effect [F(1.43 0. 115) = 2. high threat . p = .0. Figure 1.CD c . before conclusions can be made about stakes-threat interaction effects. contrary to the simplifying effect suggested by previous adaptive decision studies.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making V C) 501 I0. Alternative-based alternative-based processing. however.09.8.16 As shown in Figure 2. low threat g = 3. the higher threat condition encouraged more consistent access of information for all alternatives considered.34 a) . The dependent factor was the relative consistency-selectivity of information search.
noncompensatorystrategy.Simplyput. Although the threat and stakes factors affected participants'evaluations of responsealternatives. high stakes L = 3.Why did the participants but adapttheirchoice ruleswhen comparingalternatives. is not as sensitiveto the differences and in individualpreferences.26. public opinion.73. the fact thatpeople have differentcore values is more in important dimensionalevaluationthanin deciding between alternatives.F(1. low stakes gt = 2. 115) = 1. under the high-threat condition.An ANOVA of the stakestreatment (high vs. Evaluatingalternatives. In contrastto the threateffect.g. . Mean searchconsistencyby combinedtreatments.07. 115) = 3. not when informationon dimensions?One explanationmay be thatthe willingness seeking (or ability) to trade values on multiple decision dimensions is more clearly a function of an individual'sbelief system than is the process of weighing possible responseoptions. economic impact) should be satisfied [F(l.25 for stakes].9]. makingtrade-offsbetweendimensionsrequiresthe decision-maker prioritize disparateinterestsand varied standards utility. decision processing. in this case compensatory choice.on of the otherhand. however.p= .neithertreatmentsignificantlyaffected evaluationof which decision dimensions (e. higher stakesencouragedmore selective searchon alternatives.32. low) also showed a weak manipulationeffect [F(1.502 Astorino-Courtois 2:a 4 3.76 2.9 3 111 1112.Moreto over.may be a more straightforward of judgmenton the appropriateness a specific actionin a specific circumstance.. 115) = 1.19 for threat.89 3.73 low threat high threat Decision Type low stakes high stakes Figure 2. p = . indicatingthe use of an effort-saving.72. p = .
moreso thanwhatcame before"(p.produceeffects opposed to-those associatedwith stressand complexity.e. stakes had no significant independenteffect.and political outcomes..it promisesto be freerfromthreatsof cataclysmic proportions.the results nonetheless indicate that these should not be takenas simple reflectionsof stressandcomplexityeffects. For example. the presenceof high stakespromotedthe use of a simplifying. indeed.In the foreignpolicy of of setting.noncompensatory choice rule. pitfalls and fallacies that characterizedecision-makingprocesses" (Maoz. what we can learn about the impact of the unique elements of foreign policy decision problems (or.decisionmakers should be aware of the tendency to simplify decision processes in these settings ratherthan searchfor optimalalternatives. for powers like the UnitedStates. 1990. Haass (1997) has observed that "the world in the wake of the Cold War . 179). p..the high-threatmanipulationencouragedmore effortful (compensatory)choice. Moreover. Althoughthose studiesprovidea solid basis for inquiry. this paperhas extended researchby decision theorists primarilyworkingoutsidepolitical science. participantsfollowed more cognitively demanding (i.and contraryto the propositionsof a good deal of stresseffects research. improvedunderstanding how variouscharacteristics a given decision situation might affect decision-makingcan help sensitize leaders to the "biases. On the other hand. contrary based decision-making. in general. Thatis. Simplifying (dimension-based) processingwas morecommonlyused in the low-threatsettings. in both the high. decision strategies.at the same time that it is "moredangerous(with the emergence of more numerousif lesser threats). but ratherappearedto intensify the processingeffect of the threatlevel. . when evaluating a "lesser"internationalthreat.Although this study representsan initial explorationof the effects of the stakes and threat propertieson decision-making."The results of this analysis have implications both for post-Cold War foreign policy decision-makingand for our theoretical of understanding rationalandquasi-rational decision-making. 1). the addition of elevated Interestingly. The threatcharacteristic the decision problemalso influencedchoice rules. the level of stakes involved in the decision task had the reverseeffect on the choice rule. Overall. alternativebased) informationprocessing patternsunderhigh-threatconditions. of to the large body of literatureassociating crises with heuristicAgain. On a theoreticallevel..Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making 503 Discussion Individuals generally adapted their decision strategies to the stakes-threat propertyof the decision tasks in termsof both the processing patternsand choice rules used. promisesto be terriblycomplex. decision-makingin other political of arenas)will greatlyenhanceourunderstanding the connectionsamongdomestic and international decision settings.and low-threatsettings. On the contrary. these foreign policy domain-specific decision factors appearto be independent of-and.
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The landownersthen chargedenormousrent to the formerowners to live on and farmthe land.Duringthe droughtwealthy landownersbought up land from peasant farmersdesperatefor quick money in orderto survive. 49. 52. M.K. J. Journal of Business Research. (1992). & Thachuk. 156-181. M.C. E.506 Astorino-Courtois and Smith. Suedfeld. 159-174. & Kadous. M.N.. New York:Hemisphere.21. Background: Rongkur'seconomy is builton subsistencefarming.D. and cognitive defects. Changesin integrativecomplexity among Middle East leadersduringthe PersianGulf war. The National SecurityCouncil (NSC) considers this crisis to be both low stakes in termsof the to importance vital U. (1993). speeches on the Middle East problem.. van Schie. salienceandthe discoveryof hiddenprofilesby decision-making Stasser.5 million more will soon die of starvation water-borne and diseases. 241-250.. (1996)..21. & Helgeson. (1992). resourcesand personnel. P. (1984). D. (1977). Groupthink the hostage rescue mission. & Ramirez. Motivatedaugmentation reductionof the over-attribution Personalityand Social Psychology. Wiseman. Suedfeld.S.as many as 1. Wallace. D. & van der Pligt. 183-199. & Tetlock. & Levin. 264-275.. When the socialist governmentof Rongkurattemptedto reformthis practice. Influencingrisk preferencein decision-making:The effects of framing and salience. 65." Stone. Journal of ConflictResolution. and bias. M. I. (1997).. Psychology and social policy (pp. Suedfeld. P. International died in the flooding so far. 66.K. P. Journalof Social Issues.. Tetlock.P. and unless aid missions begin immediately. Organizational experiment.peace and integrativecomplexity:U. Journalof Webster. After 2 years of severe drought. (1993). 427-442. 1947-1976. OrganizationalBehavior and Human Decision Processes. crises. Psychological advice about political decision-making:Heuristics..000 Rongkurishave deadlyflooding.S. P. The joint effects of task-relatednegative affect and task difficulty in multiattribute choice.G. Ursic.). (1995). Integrativecomplexity of communicationsin international Journal of ConflictResolution. Suedfeld. BritishJournal of Political Science. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Tetlock (Eds. Comparingrisky decision-making under conditions of real and hypothetical consequences.the monsoon rains have caused mud slides and relief workersestimatethat250. 63. Information groups: A "thought Behaviorand HumanDecision Processes. 169-184. In P. C. S.the landownershired and armedtheir . War.21. & Tetlock. andlow threatin termsof the potential risk/costs to U. interestsandpolicy. 117-126. 70. Suedfeld & P. 51-70).. OrganizationalBehaviorand HumanDecision Processes. (1977). 69-90. J. (1990). biases. P. The impactof choice phaseandtaskcomplexityon decision-making. APPENDIX Decision Scenario and Decision Matrix for Low Stakes-Low Threat Treatment PresidentialBriefingon MonsoonDevastation and Crisis in Rongkur Situation: A devastating monsoon has ravaged the lowlands of Rongkur. 15. P.. 261-271.
Currently: The landownersaretakingadvantageof the monsoonto mountan offensive against the Rongkurigovernment. The fighting.Helicopterairliftsarethe only way to reach those areas. Aid/rescue workers are running critically low on supplies needed for the million Rongkurisleft homeless by the flood. In addition. gang-Armyclashes broke own "gangs"to resist implementation. out when Rongkur's Prime Minister was assassinatedby one of the landowner gangs.Distributionof criticalrelief suppliesto the countrysideis now nearlyimpossible. In addition. many of Rongkur'sroadsand bridgeshave been destroyed. Public Opinion: CNN has been broadcastingspecial reportson the situation in Rongkur. Dester River Rongkur Citl Monsoon devastation area Rongkuri Sea . the children now face starvationand death from preventablediseases simply because relief supplies are bogged down by the fighting in the capital. togetherwith the flood damage.make the situationin Rongkur both difficult and dangerous for internationalrelief workers: along with the indiscriminateshootings.including a now well-known reportfrom a temporaryshelter filled with thousandsof poor children orphanedby the floods and fighting. there are unconfirmedreportsthat General Harani-who has not appearedin a numberof days-has been kidnappedby the landownergangs.fighting aroundRongkur'sonly airporthas prevented delivery of food and medical aid. Having in many cases seen their parents swept away by the floods. The latest polls indicate growing Yarbu River Rongkur st\.The capital city has been the site of continuous gun battles. Withouthis leadershipthe RongkuriArmy is quicklybecoming disorganizedand ineffective. and demandsof extortionpaymentsto the gangs. Army Chief GeneralHaraniis now serving as acting PrimeMinister.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making 507 Two monthsago.
S. personnel sent to Rongkur. andlow threatin termsof the potential risk/coststo U..S. nationalsecurity(NAT'L SECURITY) Impacton relationswith othernations(INT'L RELATIONS) Domestic opinion (PUBLICOPINION) To continue.S. ACTION) Lead U. your advisors in the NationalSecurityCouncilconsiderthis crisis to be both low stakesin termsof the to importance vital U. response: RESPONSEALTERNATIVES Offer $5. action resource-poorand poverty-stricken would encourageothernationsto get involved as well. or all. militaryforce authorizedto deliver aid and restorepolitical orderand stabilityin Rongkur(U. military(coalition) force authorizedonly to rebuildroadwaysand assurethe safety of aid workers(U.N.N.N.508 Astorino-Courtois sentimentamong the Americanpublic that somethingmust be done to relieve the sufferingin Rongkur./AID) Lead largerU.He feels that since Rongkuris a countrywithout any majorallies. interestsandpolicy.: Our U./POLITICAL) In making your final choice among these alternatives.S.the NSC staff has submittedfouralternatives for possible U.000 in U. . (unilateral) militaryforce sufficientto rebuildroadsandassureaid worker safety (U. Security Council would welcome a U. initiativeto aid Rongkur.you may want to consider any.Again.S.N.please returnto the computerscreen and click on "NEXTPAGE". emergencyassistanceto Rongkur(MONEY) * * * U.N.S.S.N. U.N.500. According to the JointChiefs of Staff.S.. Ambassadorreportsthat the U. the landownergangs representonly a minor threatto any U.S. resourcesand personnel. At the U. of these areasof concern: CONCERNS * ? * * Cost in $ and economic impact (ECON) Impacton U. After analyzingthe situation.S.
force as politically On threatening. U. U. economy. if U.S.S.S. stabilizationefforts are seen by even one landowneras threatening.N.N.N. this option is an 8.S.S. this option is a 10.S.On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.N. this option is a 3.N. or world security. business or trade.N. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.N. political objectives as enhancingtheir power/influence.S./AID This option will involve moderate operational costs as nonparticipating SecurityCouncil membersshould providesome financial compensation for participants./POLITICAL Stabilizing Rongkur'spolitical situationwill likely entail moderatehigh costs for the U. action poses a threatto their political power. this option is a 9. .N. Some U. U. ACTION While U. lives will be at moderaterisk only if landowner gangs believe the U. Sending a humanitarian force to Rongkur will in no way diminishour ability to defend U. this option is a 7./U. However.N.S. Althoughin commandof the U. security interestsaround the globe. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.5 million is availablethrough the international emergencyrelief fund. prejudices. generalsin Rongkurmay be unableto control the bearing(e.S. U.S.S. forces will come under attackwith potentiallyheavy casualties. forces should be at low risk. forces come under attackfrom landownergangs and additional are troops/weapons needed. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best./U. interventionin futureworld humanitarian/ political crises. this option is a 3. humanitarian action will not affect U. it will cost $6 to 8 million in unbudgeted expenses.g. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. this option is a 5. If all Rongkuri landowners perceive U.N. intervention now could set a precedent for costly U. U. U. These costs will increaseif U. Moreover. NAT'L SECURITY This option will not affect either U.S. this option is a 6. the $5. thatcould last for a year or more. force.Stakes and Threat in Foreign Policy Decision-Making 509 Decision Matrix Cell Contents MONEY ECON This option will not affect the U. casualtiesshould be expected if landownerssee the U. aggressivetactics) of foreign military units.S.. U.
this option is a 6./POLITICAL This option may enhanceour influence among nationswith similarviews on humanand political rightsto ours.510 MONEY INT'L RELATIONS As financial assistancewill not resolve the aid distribution crisis in Rongkur. this option is a 10. should expect criticismespecially by poorernationsfor indifference to the lives of non-Western people.S. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. this option is a 5. As long as there are no U. casualties public and media are low.N. could be harmed. PUBLIC OPINION While this option This option will be popularas long involves no loss of U. the perceptionthat operationis the administration successful and is indifferentto its U.S. this option is a 6. etc. concern with humanrights and welfare. your redecreaseyour election chances popularityratings. lives.S. regardlessof political ideology. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. casualtiesare low. the U. U. option is a 6. . casualties.S. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best. this option is a 2.public supportwill turn and possibly mark this as a major foreign policy blunder. economic ties.S.S. Americanswill supportthis option as reflectingU. If casualties increase./AID This option shouldenhance U. However. this option is an 8.S. Americanswill support interventionas long as U. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.N. ACTION This option will enhanceour influence abroad by demonstrating U. On a scale of 1 = worst to 10 = best.S. moralleadership and compassionwithoutthe expense of unilateralaction.On a scale of 1 = worstto 10 = best. could significantly If not. international prestigeby demonstrating our willingness to work with othernations in defense of humanwelfareregardless of political differences.S. this option is a 10. this 10 = best. troops are concernsover returned home Rongkurisuffering within 5 months. Astorino-Courtois U. our relationswill be harmedwith some ThirdWorld nationswho perceive it as patronizingand arrogant imposition of Western political practices on the rest of the world. U. On a scale of On a scale of l = worst to 1 = worst to 10 = best. as U. This could affect our influence in affairsbeyond Europeand Japan.S.