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Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites

Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites

Edited by Robert Axelrod
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 422
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  • Book Info
    Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites
    Book Description:

    This book outlines a new approach to the analysis of decision making based on "cognitive maps." A cognitive map is a graphic representation intended to capture the structure of a decision maker's stated beliefs about a particular problem. Following introductory chapters that develop the theory and techniques of cognitive mapping, a set of five empirical studies applies these new techniques to five policy areas.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7195-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. PART ONE Introduction

    • CHAPTER ONE The Cognitive Mapping Approach to Decision Making
      (pp. 3-17)
      Robert Axelrod

      This is a book about how people make decisions and how they can make better decisions. It focuses on an analysis of the effects of policy alternatives upon valued goals. Our approach is to study the cognitive maps used by actual decision makers and policy experts, to see in what ways their performance can be improved. The theme of the book is that although people have to simplify their image of the complexities of the environment in order to cope with it, the number and types of simplifications need not be as great as they usually are. The tools we...

    • CHAPTER TWO Foreign Policy Formation Viewed Cognitively
      (pp. 18-54)
      Ole Holsti

      Foreign policy analysis has been dominated by approaches that conceptualize the acting unit as a “unitary rational actor,” but many of the more interesting studies of the past few years have pointed to several limitations and inadequacies of such models. Norms and interactions within the decision-making group may serve certain needs (emotional support, feelings of solidarity, and the like) of group members. But group dynamics may also have some dysfunctional consequences for the quality of decisions by inhibiting search or cutting it off prematurely, ruling out the legitimacy of some options, curtailing independent analysis, and suppressing some forms of intragroup...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Analysis of Cognitive Maps
      (pp. 55-74)
      Robert Axelrod

      A person’s beliefs can be regarded as a complex system. According to Herbert Simon (1969, p. 86), a vital and perhaps even defining characteristic of a complex system is that “the whole is more than the sum of the parts, not in an ultimate, metaphysical sense, but in the important pragmatic sense that given the properties of the parts and the laws of their interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole.”

      The purpose of this chapter is to explain how cognitive maps can be thought of as a particular type of complex system...

  7. PART TWO Empirical Studies of Cognitive Maps

    • CHAPTER FOUR Decision for Neoimperialism: The Deliberations of the British Eastern Committee in 1918
      (pp. 77-95)
      Robert Axelrod

      A decision maker must simplify the manifest complexities of the external world. He must be able to construct a manageable representation of the external world so that he can describe and cope with his environment. The use of this representation for the purposes of making reasoned decisions requires some beliefs that link possible choices with potential outcomes.

      The major characteristic of a belief linking choice and outcome is that it is usually indirect; a person is usually unable to make a single deductive leap from a choice to an outcome. Instead, he breaks this process into a series of steps....

    • CHAPTER FIVE Complexity and the Presidency: Gouverneur Morris in the Constitutional Convention
      (pp. 96-112)
      Stuart A. Ross

      This study applies the technique of cognitive mapping to the speeches of a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, on resolutions pertaining to the presidency. That delegate was a complex man and matched to a complex topic, he provides fertile material for analysis. This study consists primarily of an application of Axelrod’s approach in Chapter 4 to the decision-making situation at the convention, and yields interesting comparisons to the results that were obtained for the British Eastern Committee.

      The man being studied is Gouverneur Morris, one of the delegates from Pennsylvania. Although he was less influential in the rest of American...

    • CHAPTER SIX Explanation of the Unexpected: The Syrian Intervention in Jordan in 1970
      (pp. 113-141)
      G. Matthew Bonham and Michael J. Shapiro

      In June 1970 a group of foreign policy specialists participated in a gaining exercise that had as its focus an imaginary crisis in the Middle East. We intended to use the exercise as a source of data for constructing a computer simulation model of policy decision making, which was in the early stages of development. In September 1970, however, a real crisis occurred in the Middle East, the Syrian intervention in Jordan, which had some resemblance to the imaginary crisis: both crises involved Syria’s relations with its neighbors, and in both crises the United States was uncertain about the intentions...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Strategy for the Energy Crisis: The Case of Commuter Transportation Policy
      (pp. 142-179)
      Fred S. Roberts

      In this chapter, I shall be concerned with constructing a cognitive map for use in decision making, rather than with describing a particular person's cognitive map. I shall explore how to build the “best” or most accurate cognitive map possible for use in making decisions. Specifically, I shall concentrate on decision problems involving energy.

      The problems of energy supply and demand have recently become more and more important as the seriousness of the “energy crisis” is revealed. In making decisions about energy, one would like to do such things as:

      (1) pinpoint the factors underlying the rapidly growing demand for...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Comparative Cognition: Politics of International Control of the Oceans
      (pp. 180-218)
      Jeffrey Hart

      The subject of this chapter is international cooperation in the exploitation and conservation of ocean resources. In 1969, a United Nations resolution called for the establishment of an international regime to regulate and control the oceans. The objective of this chapter is to consider the feasibility of analyzing the cognitive maps of the principal actors involved in this issue and to obtain in this manner information about the probable outcome of the debate. The actors to be examined include individual nations, groups of nations with common views on the issue, and the world petroleum industry. In this trial study the...

  8. PART THREE Conclusions

    • CHAPTER NINE Results
      (pp. 221-248)
      Robert Axelrod

      The central question of this concluding chapter is, From the five separate studies of cognitive maps in specific contexts, what can be learned about decision making in general?

      An epilogue is offered after this concluding chapter to answer two supplementary questions: What are the limitations of the cognitive mapping approach? And what would be a promising project for someone who wanted to have fun doing research with cognitive maps and wanted his or her work to be meaningful as part of a larger whole?

      The main task of this chapter, then, is to compare and contrast the five empirical studies,...

  9. PART FOUR Epilogue

    • CHAPTER TEN Limitations
      (pp. 251-265)
      Robert Axelrod

      It pays to be explicit about the limitations of the cognitive mapping approach for two different reasons. The first is to avoid misuse (or overuse) of the approach. From the research point of view, the misuse of an approach is costly, because it wastes time in an attempt to do something that is not feasible and may inhibit later work that would be feasible. From the applied point of view, the misuse of an approach is costly because invalid implications for policy are themselves costly if followed. To avoid these costs, it is important to be explicit about the limitations...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Projects
      (pp. 266-288)
      Robert Axelrod

      A scientific subfield is ripe for substantial progress when three factors are present: a set of key empirical results that demonstrate the potential value of future discoveries, a theoretical orientation that suggests a more or less elaborate research program, and a methodological capacity that provides the means to carry out the research program. An examination of cognitive mapping in terms of these three factors shows that the approach is indeed ripe as a domain for substantial further progress.

      A set of key empirical results already exists that demonstrates the potential value of the cognitive mapping approach. The most important of...


    • APPENDIX ONE The Documentary Coding Method
      (pp. 291-332)
      Margaret Tucker Wrightson
    • APPENDIX TWO The Questionnaire Method
      (pp. 333-342)
      Fred S. Roberts
    • APPENDIX THREE The Mathematics of Cognitive Maps
      (pp. 343-348)
      Robert Axelrod
    • APPENDIX FOUR Simulation Techniques
      (pp. 349-359)
      George J. Nozicka, G. Matthew Bonham and Michael J. Shapiro
    • APPENDIX FIVE Guide to Source Materials
      (pp. 360-372)
      Robert Axelrod
    (pp. 373-394)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 395-404)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 405-405)