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An experimental test of the poliheuristic theory of foreign policy decision making using military leaders
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This is a study in foreign policy decision making which assesses the impact of dynamic choice sets (where new alternatives appear during the decision process), on strategy selection and choice in international politics. The hypotheses tested involve how leaders change their decision making strategies during a foreign policy crisis depending on the limitations of time, information, and task complexity. In order to test these hypotheses, a computer-based decision board platform was introduced to several groups of subjects including: (a) top ranking officers in the United States Air Force, (b) cadets from Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, and (c) undergraduate students from Texas A&M University. This study contributes to previous studies using the decision board platform (Mintz and Geva 1994; Mintz, Geva, and Redd 1994) in two ways. Unlike the other studies, subjects with various levels of experience in decision making participated in the experiment. Second, the inclusion of subjects, other than students, further increases the reliability of the Foreign Policy Decision Board as an experimental tool. The studies with the undergraduate students were previously reported in Mintz, Geva and Redd 1994. The intention of this paper is to contrast experienced decision makers (military officers) with inexperienced decision makers (undergraduate students) and with a group that has received some institutionalized instruction in decision making, but may not be considered experienced (Corps Cadets). Its purpose is also to assess the impact of evolving choice sets on decision making strategies with these groups. The results showed that (1) experienced, semi-experienced, and inexperienced decision makers use a mixture of strategies when obtaining information to aid in the decision making process; (2) the structure of the choice set (whether it is static or dynamic) significantly influences the strategy selection and the choice among all types of decision makers; and (3) experienced and inexperienced decision makers differ in how they approach the decision making process. Overall, more experienced decision makers are less affected by the structure of the choice set than less experienced decision makers.
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Carnes, Amy Elizabeth (1995). An experimental test of the poliheuristic theory of foreign policy decision making using military leaders. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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