• prospect theory;
  • international relations;
  • model building;
  • cooperation;
  • conflict

Despite the growing call for new models of politics grounded in the capacities of real–world decision–makers, much international relations theory still incorporates rationalist assumptions. Scholars defend such assumptions as the best way to produce parsimonious theoretical structures. Recent attempts to deploy prospect theory in the study of international politics are consistent with the call for empirically grounded models of political behavior. However, past attempts have often emphasized individualized comparisons of prospect theory with rational choice at the expense of building deductive theory. The analysis here demonstrates that prospect theory can produce deductive models for empirical comparison with those already manufactured under rational choice. The result is a new set of propositions concerning international politics securely anchored to the actual capacities of human actors.