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Rationalist Experiments on War

Political Science Research and Methods. DOI: 10.1017/psrm.2015.24

APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper

MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17

39 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 14 Dec 2015

Kai Quek

The University of Hong Kong

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Quek, Kai, Rationalist Experiments on War (2011). Political Science Research and Methods. DOI: 10.1017/psrm.2015.24; APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper; MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900758 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1900758

Kai Quek (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

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