Images and Policy Preferences



This article reports the results of an experiment that tests the independent and interactive effects of two dimensions of international images: perceived historial relationship and cultural differences. Priming techniques are used to manipulate images in subjects who are involved in a simulated international conflict. Dependent variables include attitudes and behaviors, the latter in the form of policy preferences arranged on a cooperative-conflictual continuum. The results indicate that images do matter. When the perceived relationship is hostile, subjects develop more negative attitudes toward their opponents and choose more conflictual policies. Cultural differences produce more negative attitudes in all conditions but result in more negative policy selections only when the perceived relationship is hostile. In other words, in considering policy moves, cultural differences exacerbate conflict between enemies, but make no difference between friends, in spite of the negative outgroup attitudes they elicit.