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Decision Makers' Use of False Analogies Causing Miscalculation and War
Unformatted Document Text:  Horan 11 Policy makers apply analogies in different ways dependent on the success or failure of the past event being used as a reference according to Jervis. With success in a former situation, the policies of the past event are quickly applied to the current similar situation. This process occurs without considering any other actions despite available information of alternatives. Decision makers attribute success to these policies assuming proposed alternatives would yield failure. The similarities or differences between the past policy and the current strategy reflect how much influence the policy was believed to have had on the success or failure of the past event. Decision makers apply the “lessons,” or analogies, based on their success in the past. Saving time and cost, leaders believe their decisions are informed when they are based on the availability of past events similar to the current situation. They are informed only when history is taken into consideration rather than unthinkingly applied. Jervis believes analogies lead to miscalculations for three reasons. The first is inconclusive evidence that a decision maker should use the past event, or base analog, to make policy. The second is a lack of outside analysis and the creation of inapplicable generalizations from using an analogy. Thirdly, decision makers do not consider more than one analogy when deciding what lessons to use but only consider the most available ones. 18 These problems of miscalculation with analogy-making are emphasized when deciding whether to engage in war. Miscalculation arises in two forms from analogy-making, optimistic and pessimistic miscalculation, depending on whether the base analog is success or failure. In Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Robert Jervis focuses on how failure as a base analog impacts the chosen policies differently than success as a base. With a past failure, decision makers use opposite policies from the past without further analyzing the similarities between the 18 Jervis, 234-246, 281-282.

Authors: Horan, Elizabeth.
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Horan 11
Policy makers apply analogies in different ways dependent on the success or failure of the
past event being used as a reference according to Jervis. With success in a former situation, the
policies of the past event are quickly applied to the current similar situation. This process occurs
without considering any other actions despite available information of alternatives. Decision
makers attribute success to these policies assuming proposed alternatives would yield failure.
The similarities or differences between the past policy and the current strategy reflect how much
influence the policy was believed to have had on the success or failure of the past event.
Decision makers apply the “lessons,” or analogies, based on their success in the past. Saving
time and cost, leaders believe their decisions are informed when they are based on the
availability of past events similar to the current situation. They are informed only when history
is taken into consideration rather than unthinkingly applied. Jervis believes analogies lead to
miscalculations for three reasons. The first is inconclusive evidence that a decision maker
should use the past event, or base analog, to make policy. The second is a lack of outside
analysis and the creation of inapplicable generalizations from using an analogy. Thirdly,
decision makers do not consider more than one analogy when deciding what lessons to use but
only consider the most available ones.
These problems of miscalculation with analogy-making
are emphasized when deciding whether to engage in war.
Miscalculation arises in two forms from analogy-making, optimistic and pessimistic
miscalculation, depending on whether the base analog is success or failure. In Perception and
Misperception in International Politics, Robert Jervis focuses on how failure as a base analog
impacts the chosen policies differently than success as a base. With a past failure, decision
makers use opposite policies from the past without further analyzing the similarities between the
18
Jervis, 234-246, 281-282.


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