New Books in National Security

Dominic Johnson, "Strategic Instincts: The Adaptive Advantages of Cognitive Biases in International Politics" (Princeton UP, 2020)

In Strategic Instincts: The Adaptive Advantages of Cognitive Biases in International Politics (Princeton University Press, 2020), Dominic Johnson challenges the assumption that cognitive biases led to policy failures, disasters, and wars. Instead, he explains that moderate and appropriate irrational behavior may actually supply favorable results in international politics and lead to political and strategic success.

Johnson draws upon biology and behavioral sciences to look at three cognitive biases--overconfidence, the fundamental attribution error, and in-group/out-group bias. Examining historical case studies of the American Revolution, the Munich Crisis, and the Pacific campaign in World War II, he then explores the advantages and disadvantages of these biases. After acknowledging hubris, paranoia, and prejudice, Johnson argues for a more nuanced understanding of the causes and consequences of cognitive biases. Arguing that in the complex world of international relations, strategic instincts can, in the right context, lead to preferred outcomes. 

Kyle Beadle is a recent graduate of Louisiana State University, where he studied International Studies and Spanish. He is now seeking a master’s in International Relations and Security.

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