Decision Maker Preferences for International Legal Cooperation
Posted: 8 Dec 2011
Date Written: February 23, 2012
International relations and legal theories on treaty design and participation have relied heavily on the structure of bargaining problems, the allocation of power in the international system, and interest group politics to explain states’ preferences for cooperation. Using experiments drawn from behavioral economics and cognitive psychology — along with a substantive survey focused on international trade treaties — we suggest that the personality traits of the individual people asked to play key roles in negotiating and ratifying international treaties also shape their preferences for how treaties are designed and put into practice. Players whose personality traits include patience were more likely to seek treaties with larger numbers of countries (and thus larger long-term benefits). And players with the skill to anticipate how others will respond over multiple iterations of strategic games also were likely to imagine that the complex strategic challenges of large membership are manageable. We find that the presence of an enforcement mechanism increased the willingness of players to join treaties. However, personality traits were even more important. More strategic players also were more likely to favor joining the agreement and this effect is about twice the effect of adding enforcement. Our study, based on a sample of 509 university students, provides a baseline for future experimental and survey research on actual policy elites who design and implement treaties.
Keywords: international law, behavioral economics, survey experiment
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