Mathematical models of foreign policy decision-making: Compensatory vs. noncompensatory

Research paper by Alex Mintz, Nehemia Geva, Karl Derouen

Indexed on: 01 Sep '94Published on: 01 Sep '94Published in: Synthese


There are presently two leading foreign policy decision-making paradigms in vogue. The first is based on the classical or rational model originally posited by von Neumann and Morgenstern to explain microeconomic decisions. The second is based on the cybernetic perspective whose groundwork was laid by Herbert Simon in his early research on bounded rationality. In this paper we introduce a third perspective — thepoliheuristic theory of decision-making — as an alternative to the rational actor and cybernetic paradigms in international relations. This theory is drawn in large part from research on heuristics done in experimental cognitive psychology. According to the poliheuristic theory, policy makers use poly (many) heuristics while focusing on a very narrow range of options and dimensions when making decisions. Among them, the political dimension is noncompensatory. The paper also delineates the mathematical formulations of the three decision-making models.