Decision Making

Valerie M. Hudson

American foreign policy may be studied from a variety of perspectives. Historical narrative, institutional analysis, issue area examination, rational choice theory, study of ideational and legal evolution, gendered perspectives, and Realpolitik accounts are all valid and useful approaches to understanding not only American foreign policy but the foreign policy of any nation.


Allison, Graham T. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Boston, 1971. One of the best works of foreign policy analysis.

Allison, Graham T., and Philip Zelikow. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York, 1999. An update of an important work using material declassified in the 1990s.

Bonham, G. Matthew, Victor M. Sergeev, and Pavel B. Parhin. "The Limited Test-Ban Agreement: Emergence of New Knowledge Structures in International Negotiations." International Studies Quarterly 41 (1997): 215–240.

Boynton, G. R. "The Expertise of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." In Valerie M. Hudson, ed. Artificial Intelligence and International Politics. Boulder, Colo., 1991.

Breuning, Marijke. "Culture, History, and Role: Belgian and Dutch Axioms and Foreign Assistance Policy." In Valerie M. Hudson, ed. Culture and Foreign Policy. Boulder, Colo., 1997.

Callahan, Patrick, Linda Brady, and Margaret G. Hermann, eds. Describing Foreign Policy Behavior. Beverly Hills, Calif., 1982.

Checkel, Jeffrey T. "Ideas, Institutions, and the Gorbachev Foreign Policy Revolution." World Politics 45 (1993): 271–300.

East, Maurice A., Stephen A. Salmore, and Charles F. Hermann, eds. Why Nations Act: Theoretical Perspectives for Comparative Foreign Studies. Beverly Hills, Calif., 1978.

George, Alexander L. "The 'Operational Code': A Neglected Approach to the Study of Political Leaders and Decision-making." International Studies Quarterly 13 (1969): 190–222. Another seminal article for those interested in cognitive approaches.

——. Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C., 1993. An impassioned call for the academy to inform foreign policy decision making.

Hagan, Joe D. "Regimes, Political Oppositions, and the Comparative Analysis of Foreign Policy." In Charles F. Hermann, Charles W. Kegley, Jr., and James N. Rosenau, eds. New Directions in the Study of Foreign Policy. Boston, 1986.

Halperin, Morton. Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy. Washington, DC, 1974. A classic on the subject.

Hermann, Charles F. "Decision Structure and Process." In Maurice East et al. Why Nations Act. Beverly Hills, Calif., 1978.

Hermann, Margaret G. "Personality and Foreign Policy Decision Making: A Study of 53 Heads of Government." In Donald A. Sylvan and Steve Chan, eds. Foreign Policy Decision Making: Perception, Cognition, and Artificial Intelligence. New York, 1984.

Holsti, Kal J. "National Role Conceptions in the Study of Foreign Policy." International Studies Quarterly 14 (1970): 233–309. The seminal article on national role conception that started a new research agenda that continues to this day.

Hudson, Valerie M. "Cultural Expectations of One's Own and Other Nations' Foreign Policy Action Templates." Political Psychology 20 (1999): 767–802.

Hudson, Valerie M., with Christopher A. Vore. "Foreign Policy Analysis Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." Mershon International Studies Review 39 (1995): 209–238. A good and fairly comprehensive overview of the subfield of foreign policy analysis.

Janis, Irving. Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. 2d ed. Boston, 1982. A classic that is well known in social science circles.

Jervis, Robert. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton, N.J., 1976. Another classic work on perception.

Khong, Yuen Foong. Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Princeton, N.J., 1992.

Levy, Jack. "Learning and Foreign Policy: Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield." International Organization 48 (1994): 279–312.

Lotz, Hellmut. "Myth and NAFTA: The Use of Core Values in U.S. Politics." In Valerie M. Hudson, ed. Culture and Foreign Policy. Boulder, Colo., 1997.

"Political Psychology." Special issue on the Decision Units model of International Studies Review, 2002.

Purkitt, Helen E. "Problem Representations and Political Expertise: Evidence from 'Think Aloud' Protocols of South African Elite." In Donald A. Sylvan and James F. Voss, eds. Problem Representation in Foreign Policy Decision Making. Cambridge and New York, 1998.

Putnam, Robert. "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games." International Organization 42 (1998): 427–486. A foundational article that should be read by those seeking to link foreign and domestic politics.

Renshon, Stanley A., and Deborah Welch Larsen, eds. Good Judgment in Foreign Policy. New York, 2001.

Rosenau, James N. "Pre-Theories and Theories of Foreign Policy." In R. Barry Farrell, ed. Approaches in Comparative and International Politics. Evanston, Ill., 1966.

Schrodt, Philip A. "Event Data in Foreign Policy Analysis." In Laura Neack, Jeanne Hey, and Patrick J. Haney, eds. Foreign Policy Analysis: Continuity and Change in Its Second Generation. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1995.

Snyder, Richard C., H. W. Bruck, and Burton Sapin. Foreign Policy Decision-Making: An Approach to the Study of International Politics. Glencoe, Ill., 1962. Arguably the work that began the decision-making theoretical enterprise in foreign policy.

Sprout, Harold, and Margaret Sprout. Man-Milieu Relationship Hypotheses in the Context of International Politics. Princeton, N.J., 1956. Another classic, emphasizing the need to integrate models of human decision making with models of the context in which those decisions are being made.

Sylvan, Donald A., and James F. Voss, eds. Problem Representation in Foreign Policy Decision Making. Cambridge and New York, 1998.

'T Hart, Paul, Eric K. Stern, and Bengt Sundelius, eds. Beyond Groupthink: Political Group Dynamics and Foreign Policy-Making. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1997.

Waltz, Kenneth N. Theory of International Politics. Reading, Mass., 1979. A classic of more mainstream international relations.

Wendt, Alexander. "Anarchy Is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics." International Organization 46 (1992): 391–425. A good introduction to the constructivist turn in international relations theory.

Winter, David G. The Power Motive. New York, 1973.

See also The Behavioral Approach to Diplomatic History ; Public Opinion .

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