Policymakers, Intelligence Agencies, and Negativity Bias: How States Assess Strategic Situations

Friday, December 1, 2023


1302 IAB

Lunch will be served

Link to the google form registration: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1pgeJmtV5P3faYuNQoJzeWDqTVdq2fhJ3z5WG-ZTmBJU/edit 

Moderated by V. Page Fortna, Director, Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies; Harold Brown Professor of US Foreign and Security Policy, Department of Political Science, Columbia University

Discussant: Paola Solimena, Postdoctoral Research Scholar in National Security and Intelligence, Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies

With Yu Aoki, Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies (ISCS), Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

Yu Aoki’s presentation is on the subject of his book project, which proposes what he calls the “policy-intelligence-divergence theory.” This theory argues that policymakers are more pessimistic than intelligence agencies (IAs) both (1) when inferring adversaries’ intentions from such adversaries’ past actions and (2) when predicting how adversaries and allies will interpret and react to the policymakers’/IAs’ own state backing down. This is because policymakers are comparatively more susceptible than IAs to what psychologists call “negativity bias,” with IAs being more resistant to such bias due to their profession’s norm of objective analysis, independence from policymaking, and unique nature as a quasi-scientific pursuit.

Speaker Bio:

Yu Aoki completed his Ph.D. in Political Science in September 2022 at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies (ISCS) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Prior to the ISCS, he was both the Innovative Approaches to Grand Strategy Post-doctoral Fellow as well as a Hans J. Morgenthau Fellow at the University of Notre Dame’s International Security Center during the 2022-2023 academic year. His research interests are in international security and grand strategy with a focus on how states, especially the United States, assess adversaries’ and allies’ capabilities, intentions, and outlooks.