The Behavioral Psychology of Elite Decision Making: Implications for Political Cooperation, a talk by Emilie Hafner-Burton & David Victor

The Behavioral Psychology of Elite Decision Making: Implications for Political Cooperation, a talk by Emilie Hafner-Burton & David Victor

Please join us for a talk by Emilie Hafner-Burton and David Victor, professors at the UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and co-Directors of the School's new Laboratory on International Law and Regulation.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA


AUDIO: To listen to audio from the lecture click here.

To view the original paper, please click here.



International relations theories on the design and implementation of international treaties have relied heavily on the allocation of power in the international system and on the structure of bargaining problems.  Using experiments drawn from behavioral economics and cognitive psychology and a substantive survey focused on international trade treaties, we suggest that the personality traits of the people asked to play key roles in negotiating, ratifying and implementing international treaties also shape their preferences for how treaties are designed and put into practice. Patient subjects were more likely to seek treaties with large numbers of issues and countries (and thus larger long-term benefits) and to lobby for treaties that create long-term benefits by opening markets despite immediate adjustment costs.  Although theory suggests that enforcement plays a large role in effectiveness of international commitments, we find mixed and limited evidence that enforcement has much impact on our subjects’ willingness to join treaties.   We also find that subjects with the skill to anticipate how other players will respond over multiple iterations of strategic games are much more likely to favor treatydesigns that involve large numbers of countries.  In contrast with players who have fewer strategic skills, these players are likely to imagine that the strategic challenges of large membership are manageable. Our study, based on a sample of [550] university students, provides a baseline for future experimental and survey research on actual policy elites who design and implement treaties.


Emilie Hafner-Burton is a professor at UC San Diego's School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and Director of the School’s new Laboratory on International Law and Regulation.  Looking across a wide array of issues from environment and energy to human rights, trade and security, the Laboratory explores when (and why) international laws actually work.

Most recently, Hafner-Burton served as professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University, where she held joint appointments in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs. She also served as research scholar at Stanford Law School and fellow of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Previously, she was postdoctoral prize research fellow at Nuffield College at Oxford University, recipient of MacArthur fellowships at Stanford’s CISAC and affiliate at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.

Hafner-Burton’s research at Princeton, Oxford and Stanford examined ways to improve compliance with international law, protections for human rights, and a wide variety of other topics related to law, economics and regulation. Her research also examined applications of social network analysis to international relations, economic sanctions, and gender mainstreaming in international organizations. She has published widely on these and other subjects.

For more information, please visit Hafner-Burton's personal site.

David G. Victor is a professor at the UCSD School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and Director of the School’s new Laboratory on International Law and Regulation. His research focuses on how the design of regulatory law affects issues such as environmental pollution and the operation of major energy markets. He is author of Global Warming Gridlock, which explains why the world hasn't made much diplomatic progress on the problem of climate change while also exploring new strategies that would be more effective. Prior to joining the faculty at UCSD Victor served as director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University where he was also a professor at Stanford Law School.  At Stanford he built a research program that focused on the energy markets of the major emerging countries—mainly Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Earlier in his career he also directed the science and technology program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he directed the Council's task force on energy and was senior adviser to the task force on climate change. At Stanford and the Council he examined ways to improve management of the nation's $50 billion strategic oil reserve, strategies for advancing research and regulation of technologies needed for "geoengineering," and a wide array of other topics related to technological innovation and the impact of innovation on economic growth.

For more information, please visit David Victor's personal site.



Download file: Elites-in-international-Cooperation-UCLA-kq-xby.pdf