The Red-Bull Effect: Causes and consequences of overconfidence in foreign policy decision making
MetadataShow full item record
Why do foreign policy decision makers take risk in situations that require prudence? Why do they escalate their commit to a failing course of action? This research examines the impact of overconfidence in foreign policy decision making. Building on extensive literature in social psychology, the premise of my argument is that successful past performance leads decision makers to develop overconfidence in their judgment, capacity and expectations, which bias their risk assessments. Based on this assumption, I develop a model that explains the causes and consequences of overconfidence in foreign policy decision making. In the model, past success persuades decision makers to overweight their skills and knowledge relative to what objective evidence warrants, which generates inordinate risk taking and exposes decision makers to sever failures. However, belief in success survives despite glaring setbacks, which convinces decision makers to escalate their commitment to a failing course of action. Nevertheless, there is a limit to decision makers’ ability to engage in self-deception. Therefore, over the course of repeated failures, it is expected that the decision makers will make adjustments to correct overconfident reactions.