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Rationalist Experiments on War

Kai Quek

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Political Science Research and Methods (dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.24)
MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper

Private information and the commitment problem are central 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. I also investigate the realism of the positive experimental results with a case study of Japan's decision-making on the eve of the Pacific War. The permutation of formal, experimental and historical methods applies the strength of one method to compensate for the weakness of another. Convergent results from the different methods strengthen the causal inference.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

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Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: August 30, 2015

Suggested Citation

Quek, Kai, Rationalist Experiments on War (2011). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17; MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17; APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1900758 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1900758

Contact Information

Kai Quek (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States
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References:  33
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