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

See all articles by Shiping Tang

Shiping Tang

Fudan University - School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA)

Date Written: September 10, 2012

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Tang, Shiping, Outline of a New Theory of Attribution in IR: Dimensions of Uncertainty and Their Cognitive Challenges (September 10, 2012). Chinese Journal of International Politic, 5 (2): 299-338, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2198094

Shiping Tang (Contact Author)

Fudan University - School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA) ( email )

220 Handan Road
Shanghai, 200433
China

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