How Preferences as Principles Explain Peace and Competition During Power Transitions

Does crisis behaviour signal information about resolve or, aggressive long-term intentions, or is there too much uncertainty to signal anything at all? Studies of iterated crisis bargaining have found this question difficult to answer because they assume states draw their values for each issue independently. I argue that pre-crisis foreign policy context --- whether an issue under dispute is consistent or inconsistent with the challenger's declared core interests --- determines what defenders infer. When challengers fight for a declared core interest defenders draw inferences about resolve to fight for core interest. When challengers fight over a peripheral interest, defenders draw inferences about the challenger's aggressive strategic intentions. I test this argument with an elite survey experiment that extends a realistic war game exercises that the National Security Council participated in. The subjects --- intelligence, defense and foreign policy experts in Washington DC --- are randomly assign information about the challenger's declared foreign policy and military intervention behavior, then asked to assess the challenger's intentions and resolve. Using random assignment on an elite sample and exactly simulating an assessment task they regularly participate in, I validate my theory of foreign policy context and differential crisis signaling. I import elite survey methods from judicial, medical and business studies.

About the presenter:

Michael F. Joseph is the Chauncey post-doctoral fellow at Yale University and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from George Washington University (May 2018). His research uses game theory, elite survey experiments with real-world intelligence analysts, and archival research to integrate complex preferences into rational theories of world politics. He has used his theory of complex preferences and realistic preferences to explain puzzling aspects of power transitions, crisis diplomacy, and technology and violence among other topics. His research has interested policy-makers in Washington DC because it provides novel insights about Sino-American relations, digital technology in intelligence analysis.

Date & time

Thu 14 Mar 2019, 12–2pm


LJ Hume Centre, Copland Building, ANU


Michael F. Joseph


Feodor Snagovsky


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