Outline of a New Theory of Attribution in IR: Dimensions of Uncertainty and Their Cognitive Challenges
Chinese Journal of International Politic, 5 (2): 299-338, 2012
40 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2013
Date Written: September 10, 2012
Four internal dimensions (capability, intention, interest, and resolve) and one external dimension (the strategic environment, broadly speaking) are indispensable for us to make sense of others’ behavior. This article outlines a new theory of behavioral attribution in IR. Specifically, each of the five dimensions independently poses different challenges for our cognition, and interaction of the five dimensions poses an even formidable challenge for our cognition. More importantly, the cognitive challenges they pose in conflictual situations differ from what they pose in cooperative situations. Lack of appreciation of these different and yet interacting challenges has resulted in much confusion in the IR literature. Grasping the five dimensions and the different biases we tend to commit when trying to make sense of them is crucial for understanding other states’ behaviors in conflict and cooperation. The theory outlined here points to specific hypotheses that can be tested both empirically and experimentally.
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