Signaling in the Shadow of Conflict

45 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2018 Last revised: 8 Apr 2020

See all articles by Stephane Wolton

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: June 16, 2019


Army mobilization, testing missiles, staging demonstrations, sexual violence, or even terrorist actions can all be interpreted as signals of military resolve or strength by a belligerent party. If so, what can its opponent infer from this sort of actions? This paper studies this question in various environments. In ultimatum games, in which the uninformed player makes a take-it-or-leave-it offer, signaling is completely uninformative no matter the nature of a party's private information. Other bargaining protocols fare better and so does the possibility that a country's costly actions do not solely serve to inform its enemy. The shadow of conflict does not completely impede information transmission via costly signaling, but it does make it harder. The model indicates that the intent of belligerents' strategic behavior prior or during conflicts may be difficult to assess without evaluating the broader situation.

Keywords: war, international relations, information revelation, separation, costly miscalculations

JEL Classification: D70, D74, D83

Suggested Citation

Wolton, Stephane, Signaling in the Shadow of Conflict (June 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Stephane Wolton (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics