Nuclear Proliferation and the Use of Nuclear Options: Experimental Tests
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
June 1, 2012
MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-20
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 decisions using nuclear-option games that experimentally manipulate the number of players with nuclear option in the laboratory. Results show that decisions are mostly peaceful in the two-player dyadic 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 can significantly sharpen the propensity to use the nuclear option. The findings highlight an avenue of research that evaluates mechanisms of nuclear war experimentally, extending research beyond the theoretical domain.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Date posted: July 27, 2012 ; Last revised: October 26, 2014
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