Powell, R. (2017). Research Bets and Behavioral IR. International Organization 71, S265-S277.
Behavioral economics has become popular especially in determining the elements of rational-choice approaches regarding international relations. The field of economics deals with finding the link between assumptions and conclusions. The author highlights that behaviors of individuals tend to deviate from the characteristics mentioned in the standard international relations models. The problem with using the models is lack of individualism since they focus on aggregates. The models tend to offer insights that would be feasible for aggregates, such as political parties, ministries, departments, and interest groups among others. When dealing with the challenges posed in the IR models, it is possible to use quasi-behavioral approach that can study groups as unitary elements that do not have the classical rational-actor assumptions as individuals do. Another critical approach is using theories that revolve around individuals as the key actors. Overall, behavioral economics is necessary in showing the predictions in the standard model that emanate from varied assumptions.
Saunders, E. (2017). No substitute for experience: Presidents, advisers, and information in group decision making. International Organization 71, S219-S247.
The article reveals that the study of individual behavior in international relations has been elusive in providing insights about individuals aggregate. Aggregation problem in models is seen through the decisions by leaders that focus on aggregates rather than identify individualistic characteristics. Political psychology in international relations is an important element in understanding the rationale behind different decisions by leaders. Elite leaders are applauded for great experiences in foreign policy decisions. However, the over confidence in their experience could culminate into errors of bias. When bias emerges, poor judgment is likely to occur diluting the effectiveness of decisions made. In fact, the expertise exhibited in one line of operation does not lead to the conclusion that the leader will be competent in another realm. The idea of group composition leads to better understanding of individual traits that lead to assumptions on aggregates. Competent leaders need to understand individual attitudes and behaviors before extrapolating their ideas to groups to avoid ineffective ideas.
Stein, J. G. (2017). The Micro-Foundations of International Relations Theory: Psychology and Behavioral Economics. International Organization 71, S249-S263.
One of the important areas of international relations is security. The element of psychology is essential in assessing risk in different settings especially experimental ones. The author uses prospect theory to investigate issues of risk and loss. In this case, people make choices between alternatives by evaluating the gains and losses. Loss aversion begins with estimations of probabilities where high levels of uncertainties trigger thoughts of unmanageable risk. Decision makers tend to be risk avert since the responsibility of the organization and other individual lies on them. They are predisposed to risk aversion even when the outcomes are likely to be good. Therefore, risk aversion in leaders during war and other security issues is necessary to escape fatalities and causalities. The assumptions of prospect theory are relevant to the security as they caution leaders to weigh the costs and benefits of their decisions.
An understanding of human behavior within international relations is yet to be regularized especially when analyzing Robert Powell, Elizabeth Saunders, and Janice Stein views. Their stand through authorship of academic articles reveals the nature of international relations as being a product of aggregate behaviors rather than dealing with an understanding of human behaviors. The pursuit of individual actors to understand behavior is limited especially when research has to focus on the outcome of aggregate players. Powell’s reveals that researchers are unable to pin human behavior within international relations to a particular pattern of individual actions. The quasi-behavioral approach reveals the tendency among unitary actors to have a behavioral preference that could limit an objective analysis of specific individuals within the group. Powell finds that bringing individuals as unique actors is impossible or difficult especially when formulating theories that can prove such a research construct empirically viable. The views expressed by Powell are echoed by Saunders whose analysis of international relations behavior progresses through individuals aggregate. The limitations with this view is that people have little knowledge of individual perpetuators within the international stage that can be singled to an individual without having a sacrificial lamb. For instance, foreign policy issues become difficult to define when behavior cannot be tracked based on the behavioral variables represented within a group. The opportunity to deal with an individual helps track behavior through advisors in relation to applying the principle-agent framework where the decision making process is defined. Furthermore, Saunders is able to demonstrate that once individuals fail to live up to wishes of their advisers, behavior transitions into a more strategic mindset guide by personal that can be positive or negative. Saunders presents individual analysis of behavior as a viable undertaking and presented through the agents surrounding the leader. Examples on foreign policy such as going to war in Iraq reveals the possibility of tracking individual leader behavior which in Bush’s case is projected through the advisers and their influential biases on policy.
Stein’s analysis of behavior within international relations aligns with the view that certain dynamics converge to produce particular outcomes that are used to guide future political decisions. Application of the prospect theory as a lead in empirical analysis of an individual’s behavioral patterns deviates from views presented by Saunders and Powell where aggregate behavior takes precedence. However, the experimental undertakings in relation to international politics, behavioral economics and international politics need to be regulated to ascertain the role of groups over individuals. Stein’s proposition that differentiated republics should be used in the analysis has a bearing on what each individual brings to the table in terms of personal attributes and their influence on aggregate behavior. The outcome of this view is that understanding international relations behavior progresses through a group of individuals before a leader’s attributes can be singled out for analysis and the level of escalation when dealing with advisors. The behavioral game theory provides definitive subjects to follow in analyzing group behavior focusing on psychology and behavioral economics as variables within the analytical model. Presentation of rational choice models encourages researchers committed towards international relations behavior where use of various variables defines the framework for sustainable grounded theories. Analysis of human behavior through the psychological attributes of the individuals helps players such as Saunders and Powell provide a definitive look at individual actors such as president Bush rather than their aggregate behavior through their handlers.