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date: 26 March 2017

Emotions in Foreign Policy Decision Making

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.

There are lots of ways that emotion has been studied in psychology, and various ways emotion has been examined in the context of foreign policy. Perhaps one of the most useful ways to examine the influence of emotion on foreign policy is through the lens of risk and threat assessment. Some approaches to emotion tend to categorize them as valence-based, in terms of broad-based positivity or negativity. Certainly elements of this kind of approach can be useful, particularly in thinking about the ways in which political conservatives appear to have a negativity bias. However, an investigation of discrete emotions allows a more sophisticated and nuanced exploration of the effect of emotion on risk analysis and threat assessment. The effects of fear, anger, and disgust are examined, related in particular to decision making under conditions of risky threat. Genetic as well as environmental circumstances can influence individual variance in the experience and expression of such emotions, and any comprehensive approach to understanding the influence of emotion on decision making should take all these factors into account.