Strategic Policy Preferences: A Behavioral Decision Theory Perspective


Decision Research, 1201 Oak, Eugene, OR 97401.


A decision theory perspective is used to analyze how individuals form preferences among competing strategic defense policies. It is argued that these preferences can be usefully conceptualized as the product of deliberative logical thinking. There are, however, a number of obstacles that may prevent people from making decisions in their own best interests or from reaching agreement with others who share those interests. Some of these obstacles are internal or psychological (e.g., difficulties in understanding probabilistic processes); some are external or institutional (e.g., limited access to relevant information). Some are encountered with even mundane problems (e.g., being overconfident in one's knowledge); some are particular to novel and consequential decisions (e.g., not knowing how to make tradeoffs among those consequences). Some seem restricted to the lay public (e.g., failure to understand technical terms); some may afflict technical experts (e.g., failure to acknowledge or question widely shared assumptions). The possibilities for research into the extent of these problems is discussed, along with the possibilities for action to alleviate them.