Rationalist Experiments on War
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper
Private information and the commitment problem are fundamental to the rationalist theory of war, but causal evidence is scarce, as rationalist explanations for war are difficult to test with observational data. I design laboratory experiments to isolate the effects of private information and the commitment problem on the risk of conflict. I find that the commitment problem sharply increases the incidence of conflict, but there is no significant difference in conflict incidence with or without private information in the shadow of shifting power. A case study of Japan's decision-making process on the eve of Pacific War assesses the historical realism of the positive experimental findings. To my knowledge, this is the first study to integrate formal, experimental and historical methods to understand the causes of interstate war.
Convergent results from the different methods strengthen the causal inference.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37working papers series
Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: May 22, 2014
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