Policy-Decision Environment and Cognitive Biases: Cases Study

Policy-Decision Environment and Cognitive Biases: Cases Study

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1562-4.ch002

Abstract

Cognitive biases are a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes. They are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies, and can be cultural, emotional, or intellectual predispositions toward a certain judgment, organizational bias, and bias that results from one's self-interest. The chapter explores some case studies in the foreign policy decision-making, distinguished in groupthink and polythink types, such as Pearl Harbor, Cuba Missile Crisis, Iraq Invasion of 2003, and post-9/11 environment.
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Introduction

Humans tend to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from making rational judgments. When evidence is lacking or ambiguousanalysts evaluate hypotheses by applying their general ackground knowledgeconcerning the nature of systems and behavior

In the first instance, we need to know that there are two general modes of thinking, intuitive and reflective. The study about the differences in the two forms of thought has been expanded in recent years (Chaiken and Trope, 1999; Myers, 2002). In 2002, Kahneman & Frederick made the Prospect Theory, which postulates that there are two systems called 1 and 2 that guide decision making process. At present, there is considerable consensus on the features that distinguish these two types of cognitive processes (Stanovich and West, 2000).

On the one hand, the system 1 allows the formulation of intuitive judgments, thinking, associations and feeling. The operations of system 1 are fast, automatic, effortless performed from associations, and are difficult to control or modify. This system is used when we drive a car, play football or have a bath that is in daily routines where we are not consciously focusing but simply we do them. On the other hand, the system 2 includes consciously controlled judgments, deliberate and sequential reasoning. The operations of system 2 are slower, serial, are made with effort, and are deliberately controlled. They are also relatively flexible and can be checked by potential rules. This system is at work when we need to pay attention to learn new activity such as dancing salsa.

Following this line, Kahneman (2002) showed that people also use emotional heuristic to take risks or make conservative choices. Affective reactions would allow heuristics be more accessible, generating impressions that would condition the system 2 when is taking judgments or decisions.

How is the work of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and psychologists useful to understand foreign policy decision-making?

Table 1.
Reasoning
     How we ought to reason     How we actually reason
     Deductive logic
     Probability, Statistics
     Decision theory
     Game theory
     The mind processes information in ways that mimic these formal models of reasoning and decision making

Cognitive biases are a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes. They are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies, and can be cultural, emotional or intellectual predisposition toward a certain judgment, organizational bias, and bias that results from one’s own self-interest.

Cognitive biases are similar to optical illusions in that the error remains compelling even when one is fully aware of its nature. But awareness of the bias, by itselfdoes not produce a more accurate perception.

These tendencies usually arise from:

  • Information processing shortcuts

  • The limited processing ability of the brain

  • Emotional and moral motivations

  • Distortions in storing and retrieving memories

  • Social influence

  • Preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cognitive Bias: It is a systematic pattern of deviation from the norm or from rationality in judgment. The bias is a form of distortion of the evaluation caused by the injury. A person's mind map presents bias where it is conditioned by pre-existing concepts not necessarily connected to one another by logical and validities.

Cognitive Science: It studies the mind, and as discipline, involves the scientific interchange among researchers in various areas of study, including artificial intelligence, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and education.

Groupthink: The term indicates a way of thinking that people adopt when they are deeply involved in a highly cohesive group, where the tendency to reach unanimity prevails over the motivation to realistically evaluate more functional alternatives for action (Janis, 1982, p. 9 AU62: The in-text citation "Janis, 1982, p. 9" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Polythink: It is a group decision-making dynamic whereby different members in a decision-making unit espouse a plurality of opinions and divergent policy prescriptions, resulting in a disjointed decision-making process or even decision paralysis.

6 Thinking Hats Method: It is a good decision-making technique and method for group discussions and individual thinking. Combined with the parallel thinking process, this technique helps groups think more effectively. It is a means to organize thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive manner.

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