Real-World Nuclear Decision Making: Using Behavioral Economics Insights to Adjust Nonproliferation and Deterrence Policies to Predictable Deviations from Rationality   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Even today, seventy years after the first atomic weapons test, the effort to find effective policies and strategies for dealing with nuclear weapons remains a daunting challenge. From early in the nuclear age, attention focused on deterrence as a strategy to prevent nuclear war. By the 1960s, key states were also seeking to limit the growth of nuclear arsenals and spread of nuclear arms through tools such as arms control and nonproliferation. More recently, global efforts have also encompassed nuclear security, or measures to keep bomb-making materials out of the hands of non-state actors such as terrorist groups. […] Given this background, the research for this project had three goals. First, it sought to update the earlier 'psychology and deterrence' literature. Since the mid-1980s, there have been significant developments in psychology, neuroscience, and related fields, many of which have informed the field of behavioral economics. This study aimed to take note of some of the key developments and explore how they might affect our understanding of deterrence and coercion. Second, this study sought to extend the reach of behavioral insights into the analysis of other policy tools, particularly as those tools are used to promote nuclear nonproliferation. Do the factors that affect deterrence outcomes also affect the operation of economic sanctions or the process of diplomatic negotiations? Third, at the same time that it sought to highlight the potential benefits of applying behavioral economics to strategic questions, this project also sought to assess the limits and potential pitfalls of this approach. Behavioral economics holds out the promise of being able to predict deviations from rational behavior." This document has been added to the Homeland Security Digital Library in agreement with the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) as part of the PASCC collection. Permission to download and/or retrieve this resource has been obtained through PASCC.

2016 The President and Trustees of Middlebury College. Posted here with permission. Documents are for personal use only and are not to be used for commercial profit. Downloaded via external web link as part of the PASCC collection.
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