This event is free and open to the public.

The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies presents: 

“A Psychological Theory of War: Wanting, Perceiving and Justifying Power”

with David G. Winter
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

moderated by Robert Jervis
Member, SIWPS, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics

The theme of “power” is a final common pathway for many of the causes—personal, institutional, structural, and historical—of conflict escalation and war. This talk develops a psychological model of the escalation process involving three power-related variables. At the leader level, the model includes (1) power as a motive or goal, measured implicitly through content analysis of verbal and written texts, and (2) threat accentuation, defined as a high ratio of power imagery in summaries of précis of communications of the “other side,” relative to the power imagery in the full text. At the population or mass level, the model includes (3) justifying power, or the belief that the war is a just war. Just-war beliefs are measured with a 9-item survey questionnaire based on classical just-war theory. Examples of operation of each variable will be drawn from a wide range of conflicts, and the possibilities for real-time monitoring of these power-related variables will be discussed.

David G. Winter has been a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan since 1988. Previously, he taught for 20 years at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He was educated at Harvard University and Oxford, and has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard. He does research on personality (especially human motivation), and political psychology. His specific interests include psychological factors leading to conflict escalation versus peaceful settlement of crises, motivational aspects of leadership, and the role of authoritarianism in political and social behavior. He has pioneered development of ways of objectively measuring personality (e.g., of political leaders and historical figures) at a distance. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals, as well as The Power Motive and a textbook, Personality: Analysis and Interpretation of Lives. He translated and edited Otto Rank’s The Don Juan Legend. Winter has been a Rhodes Scholar and Guggenheim Fellow, and has received the Henry A. Murray Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He is a past president and past Councilor of the International Society of Political Psychology, from which he has received the Harold Lasswell and Jeanne Knutson Awards.