Theses Doctoral

Prospective Balance: Loss Aversion and Consistency in International Relations

Scott, Robert Martin

Prospective Balace is an interactionist systemic theory that utilizes the concepts of non-additivity and non-linearity to better explain the incidence of cooperation and conflict. The theory argues against neorealism in which the distribution of power in the international system purports to explain the phenomenon of interest. Balance theory is a manifestation of non-additivity, while attitudinal consistency is a manifestation of non-linearity. Balanced and imbalanced configurations comprise balance theory. Rational and irrational consistency comprise attitudinal consistency. In turn, cognitive (or unmotivated) biases and affective (or motivated) biases comprise irrational consistency. Both balance and attitudinal consistency serve as independent variables. The dynamics of prospect theory, in which states are risk acceptant for loss but risk averse for gain, and the dynamics of deterrence theory serve as intervening variables. Characteristic actor behaviors, identified as perceptual syndrome, intentional clarity, widespread loss aversion, and affective abandonment of rational consistency, comprise the outcomes to be explained. Because neorealism is predicated upon maximizing rationality, its predicate is expected utility theory, in which states take actions should they provide benefits in excess of costs with appropriate utilities and probabilities considered. Because of this orientation, neorealism is unable to explain instances in which states engage in conflict that has little rational basis for success, on the one hand, and instances in which states cooperate with one another when aggression has a reasonable chance of success, on the other hand. By adopting prospect precepts, Prospective Balance provides a more powerful explanation of this puzzling behavior. Case studies selected from early to later 19th-century Europe serve as the empirical basis for analyzing in detail two of the characteristic behaviors, that of widespread loss aversion, and that of affective abandonment.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Jervis, Robert
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 12, 2012