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Deterrence and Perception

Jervis, Robert

In the most elemental sense, deterrence depends on perceptions. But unless people are totally blind, we need not be concerned with the logical point that, if one actor's behavior is to influence another, it must be perceived. Rather what is important is that actors' perceptions often diverge both from "objective reality" (or later scholars' perceptions of it, which is as good a measure as we can have) and from the perceptions of other actors. These differences, furthermore, both randomly and systematically influence deterrence. Unless statesmen understand the ways in which their opposite numbers see the world, their deterrence policies are likely to misfire; unless scholars understand the patterns of perceptions involved, they will misinterpret the behavior.

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Published In
International Security
Publisher DOI
https://doi.org/10.2307/2538549
Volume
7
Issue
3
Pages
3 - 30
Academic Units
Political Science
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