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48 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (2004)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr48 and id is 1 raw text is: 















How Do Leaders Make Decisions?


A  POLIHEURISTIC PERSPECTIVE



ALEX MINTZ
Department of Political Science
Texas A&M University

United Nations Studies
Yale University



   Poliheuristic theory (PH) bridges the gap between cognitive and rational theories of decision making. PH
postulates a two-stage decision process. During the first stage, the set of possible options is reduced by
applying a noncompensatory principle to eliminate any alternative with an unacceptable return on a criti-
cal, typically political, decision dimension. Once the choice set has been reduced to alternatives that are
acceptable to the decision maker, the process moves to a second stage, during which the decision maker uses
more analytic processing in an attempt to minimize risks and maximize benefits. In this article, the author
applies poliheuristic theory to individual, sequential, and interactive decision settings. Subsequent articles in
this issue offer theoretical extensions and multiple tests of the theory using multiple methods (formal, statis-
tical, experimental).

   Keywords: Decision analysis; poliheuristic theory; multimethod appmoach




H   ow do  foreign leaders, such as Yasser Arafat and Bashir  Assad, make   decisions?
How   did American   presidents, such  as George  H.  W.  Bush, Bill Clinton,  Dwight
Eisenhower,  and  Ronald  Reagan,  decide to use force or to refrain from using force?
The  leading decision paradigm  in international relations is the rational actor, expected
utility theory. According to this theory, nations are led by rational, forward-looking
leaders who  seek to maximize   the expected gains  of policy choices in a holistic and
compensatory   (additive) fashion (Bueno  de Mesquita  and  Lalman  1992).'
   This special issue offers an alternative to the expected utility (EU) theory of deci-
sion and  other rational-analytic decision models.  Poliheuristic (PH)  choice  theory
postulates a two-stage decision process in which  the menu  for choice is narrowed ini-
tially by a noncompensatory  analysis that eliminates options by the use of one or more
heuristics (cognitive  shortcuts). Remaining   alternatives are then  evaluated  in an
attempt  to minimize  risks and  maximize   benefits (Mintz  1993).  Examples   of the
noncompensatory heuristic that guides the elimination of options are threats to a
leader's political survival and political constraints on the use of force.

     1. Other important decision theories are bureaucratic politics, cybernetic theory, and prospect theory.

JOURNAL  OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION, Vol. 48 No. 1, February 2004 3-13
DOI: 10.1177/0022002703261056
0 2004 Sage Publications

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