Nuclear Proliferation and the Use of Nuclear Options: Experimental Tests
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
June 1, 2012
Political Research Quarterly, Forthcoming
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 actually exist in the real world. The literature on nuclear war has remained largely theoretical as a consequence. To circumvent the observational constraint, this article investigates the impact of proliferation with laboratory-based nuclear-option games that experimentally manipulate the number of players (N) with a nuclear option. Results show that decisions are mostly peaceful in the dyadic N=2 condition despite the existence of nuclear options with a relative first-strike advantage. However, a jump beyond N=2 in the crisis interaction significantly sharpens the propensity to use the nuclear option. The findings highlight an avenue of research that evaluates mechanisms of nuclear war experimentally, moving research beyond the theoretical domain.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Date posted: July 27, 2012 ; Last revised: December 14, 2015