National Security Through a Cockeyed Lens: How Cognitive Bias Impacts U.S. Foreign Policy

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JHU Press, Oct 24, 2013 - Political Science - 155 pages
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"How do mental errors or cognitive biases undermine good decision making?" This is the question Steve A. Yetiv takes up in his latest foreign policy study, National Security through a Cockeyed Lens.

Yetiv draws on four decades of psychological, historical, and political science research on cognitive biases to illuminate some of the key pitfalls in our leaders’ decision-making processes and some of the mental errors we make in perceiving ourselves and the world.

Tracing five U.S. national security episodes—the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan; the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration; the rise of al-Qaeda, leading to the 9/11 attacks; the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq; and the development of U.S. energy policy—Yetiv reveals how a dozen cognitive biases have been more influential in impacting U.S. national security than commonly believed or understood.

Identifying a primary bias in each episode—disconnect of perception versus reality, tunnel vision ("focus feature"), distorted perception ("cockeyed lens"), overconfidence, and short-term thinking—Yetiv explains how each bias drove the decision-making process and what the outcomes were for the various actors. His concluding chapter examines a range of debiasing techniques, exploring how they can improve decision making.

 

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Contents

When Psychology Meets Decision Making
1
Intention and Threat Perception
8
Focus Feature
21
A Cockeyed Lens
34
A War of Overconfidence
49
ShortTerm Bias
71
Making Better Decisions
95
Glossary
117
Notes
121
Bibliography
137
Index
151
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About the author (2013)

Steve A. Yetiv is a professor of political science at Old Dominion University and author of The Absence of Grand Strategy: The United States in the Persian Gulf, 1972–2005 and Explaining Foreign Policy: U.S. Decision-Making in the Gulf Wars, both published by Johns Hopkins.

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