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Nuclear Proliferation and the Risk of Nuclear Conflict: Experimental Tests


Kai Quek


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

June 1, 2012

MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-20

Abstract:     
The causes and prevention of nuclear war are critical to human survival but difficult to study empirically, as observations of nuclear war do not exist in the real world. Research on nuclear war has remained exclusively theoretical as a consequence. To circumvent the observational constraint, this article studies the relationship between proliferation and conflict using nuclear-option games that experimentally manipulate the number of players with a nuclear option in a laboratory setting. Results show that decisions are mostly peaceful in the two-player condition despite the existence of nuclear options with a relative first-strike advantage. However, a jump in the number of nuclear actors in the crisis interaction causes a significant increase in the individual propensity to use the nuclear option. The findings highlight an avenue of research that evaluates different mechanisms of nuclear war experimentally, pushing existing research beyond the theoretical domain.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 36

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Date posted: July 27, 2012 ; Last revised: May 24, 2014

Suggested Citation

Quek, Kai, Nuclear Proliferation and the Risk of Nuclear Conflict: Experimental Tests (June 1, 2012). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-20. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2117364 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2117364

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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