Nuclear Proliferation and the Risk of Nuclear War: An Experimental Approach
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 welfare but difficult to study empirically, because there are no observations of nuclear war in the real world. I use lab experiments to examine the relationship between the number of nuclear actors and the risk of nuclear conflict, using incentivized crisis games that manipulate the number of players (N) with a nuclear option. I find that decisions are mostly peaceful in the dyadic condition (N = 2) despite the existence of nuclear options with a relative first-strike advantage. However, a jump in the number of nuclear actors in crisis causes a significant increase in the propensity to use the nuclear option. The findings highlight an avenue of research that evaluates theoretical mechanisms of nuclear war experimentally, circumventing the observational constraints on empirical work.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37working papers series
Date posted: July 27, 2012 ; Last revised: August 14, 2013
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