Notes on Decision Making and Rational Choice Richard N. Lebow's "Between Peace and War"

Essay by viv October 2007

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Jervis’s argument as to why decisions at times are not initially rational- Individual Human Characteristics (pp.105-106)- Cognitive ConsistencyPeople tend to think that other people hold the same values and beliefs and thus follow the same thinking pattern as them.

-Irrational ConsistencyThe pursuit of consistency becomes irrational if it closes the policy-makers mind from seeing better alternatives.

Aspects are:i. Powerful Determination, belief preservation- confronted with new information that is hard to comprehend, people may ignore the new information in order to preserve their previous beliefs on which to base their decision.

ii. Desensitisatin to ‘trade offs’- If a person favours one decision above all others, they may not take into consideration the ‘trade offs’ that would occur through making that decision.

iii. Post-decision rationalisation- After a decision, there is the tendency to justify the decision made to others to defend oneself.

Janis and Mann’s theory on decision making (pp.109)1. Decision makers are human beings- therefore they need positive reinforcement and choice to see what they want to see, which can make the weighing up of factors in a decision biased.

(NB Similar to Jervis: Powerful Determination/ Belief Preservation and Desensitisation to ‘trade offs’)2. If the perceived risks of a decision are seen as serious, they’ll find another course of action- Could lead to Bolstering – picking the safest option and then proceeding to exaggerate the benefits.

3.If no suitable alternative can be found = stress which leads to-over evaluation-over sensitivity (Hypervigilance)-ignorance of new information (NB Similar to Jervis: Powerful Determination/ Belief Preservation)•Both note the lack of empirical data supporting the topic of rational choice decision making, due to the overwhelming and uncontrollable amount of variables in any research for empirical data.

ProcessRational ChoiceFailure of Rational ChoiceCognitive and AffectiveDefining GoalsGoals are defined according to values and preferencesWhims and personality of the...