Behavioral Economics Research Insights that Can Make Diplomacy Better

As Jason Zweig writes, self-deception is a barrier to good investing. We can learn a few things from his summary of 20 years of reading the research, including the following:

  • How conformation bias leads us to find supporting evidence, not contrary views
  • The tendency to not look historically or long-term
  • On hidden biases we all possess, as well as “status quo,” “blind spot,” and “anchoring”
  • Overconfidence in rating our own abilities and judgements.

One takeaway? We aren’t as rational as we think–and need to do more hard thinking to understand ourselves and those with whom we negotiate.

Via “That Cocky Voice in Your Head Is Wrong – WSJ

Every Single Cognitive Bias in One Infographic

At its essence, diplomacy is about understanding human behavior–and the mental mistakes we make must be understand to get a holistic picture. Information is power–but is easily diluted or misdirected.

 

Here’s all 188 cognitive biases in existence, grouped by how they impact our thoughts and actions. We also give some specific cognitive bias examples.

Source: Every Single Cognitive Bias in One Infographic

Geek out with the Architecture of Legislative Bodies.

Of course the UN General Assembly Hall is recognizable, but what does its semi-circle shape mean? Apparently, its one of the oldest–and a neoclassical go to for fostering consensus and democratic engagement.

The architecture of a legislative body tells a lot about how governance works in each respective body. A new book by Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt explains, including their methodology:

To answer that question, we spent six years collecting the architectural layout for each one of those buildings. We’ve published our findings in our book “Parliament.” By comparing these plans in detail, we wanted to understand how a political culture is both shaped by and expressed through architecture. Organized as a lexicon, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the book for the first time allows a comparison of all national parliaments in the world.We found a clear pattern. Although each of the 193 United Nations member states has a parliament of some kind — albeit with varying degrees of democracy — their plenary chambers have a very limited number of shapes. Most surprisingly, these buildings have hardly changed since the 19th century.

Source: These 5 architectural designs influence every legislature in the world — and tell you how each governs – The Washington Post

The regional parliament of Nordrhein Westphalia, Germany

Also, don’t miss the website for the book, Parliament, to see schematics of a number of UN Member State’s legislative body, and even the UN in Geneva and interactive photos, facts, and more. Great stuff for policy geeks, parliamentarians, and designers interested in civic engagement and proxemics.

Inside Negotiations for a Bipartisan Immigration Deal

A great article by Alec MacGillis in the NYT Magazine on how the Republicans and Democrats came together after Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama–with a historic window to negotiate an immigration deal. Who were the players. How did the deal come together. And how it fell apart.

Three years ago, the G.O.P.-led Housewas close to reaching a compromise on immigration — one that might haveneutralized the issue for the 2016 election.This is the inside story of what went wrong.

Source: How Republicans Lost Their Best Shot at the Hispanic Vote – The New York Times

Howard Raiffa, a Father of Decision Science

Leadership and diplomacy involve making decisions at various levels.

Founder of the Kennedy School of Government. Negotiation expert. Decision science scholar.

You may not have heard about Howard Raiffa, but he is considered a foundational scholar, leader, and teacher who made decision theory and negotiation accessible and important to the organizational practitioner. He is also a key figure in the development of games and simulations to teach key concepts and to apply them in practice.

His first book, Games and Decisions (1957) introduced game theory. Other notable publications include The Art and Science of Negotiation (1982), Smart Choices (1998), and Negotiation Analysis (2003).

The best practical advice, Professor Raiffa wrote, is “to maximize your expected payoff, which is the sum of all payoffs multiplied by probabilities.” He explained that “the art of compromise centers on the willingness to give up something in order to get something else in return.”“Successful artists,” he added, “get more than they give up.”

Source: Howard Raiffa, Mathematician Who Studied Decision Making, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

What the ‘dissent channel’ cable at State Means

Dozens of diplomats and mid-level officials argue for a U.S. intervention in Syria. You can read the document here. According to Joseph Cassidy, vividly explains how this “means the system is working” in the “pillow fight” that often is foreign policymaking.

The use of the dissent channel, managed by the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff has been occasionally documented, as seen in the book, The Blood Telegram by Gary Bass. In the book reveals the “profoundly disturbing account” of killing–caused by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger–with an estimate of 200,000-500,000 dead in the country we now call Bangladesh. (Not everyone sees the book as an indictment, however; Peter R. Kann sees the benefits of a foreign policy based on “unwavering loyalty to allies and an aversion to interference in another nation’s internal affairs” in his own review (“dissent”?).

The current dissent at the State Department is different for several reasons. According to Chas Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as reported by Vijay Prasad, this could be a political move to support Secretary Clinton:

What is most astounding about the cable is that it mistakes objective shifts in geopolitical relations for subjective errors. This is an elementary error for observers of international relations. The cable blames Obama for not striking Syria earlier and asks that he do so now. But Obama did not strike Syria in 2013 because he recognized, correctly, that the Russians, Chinese and most of the major countries of the Global South (including India) deeply opposed regime change. It was to finally stop any consideration of regime change that the Russians directly intervened in 2015. The deployment of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles would put any U.S. bombing raid into direct confrontation with the Russians. This is a very dangerous situation. Older habits of U.S. uni-polarity, developed from Gulf War 1 in 1990, no longer apply to an increasingly multi-polar world. It is not Obama’s timidity that led to the failure of aerial bombardment in Syria, as the diplomats contend, but it has been the rising confidence of certain world powers to confront U.S. preponderance. That this is not evident to the diplomats suggests they have a poor understanding of the world.

Source: Brain-Dead Diplomats: Why Did 51 American State Dept. Officials ‘Dissent’ Against Obama and Call for Bombing Syria? | Alternet

The person behind the famous “blood telegram, the “dissenting diplomat”, Archer K. Blood,  turned out provide factually accurate and morally upstanding counsel. As the chief political officer in what was then known as East Pakistan he paid a professional price–and this begs the question whether his approach was the most effective. (Ellen Barry explores this question in her fascinating piece in the NYT, Memo from Bangladesh.)

Machiavelli, reconsidered.

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“Redemption, rebirth, must take the form of going back to the founding principles” says an expert on the Florentine diplomat.  A lifetime of study helps Professor Maurizio Viroli of Princeton and UT Austin rebrand Machiavelli as a sage observer of political culture and a helpful resource for today. (Also, in his earlier works Viroli worked to redeem Machiavelli from being seen merely as sinister.)

His book, How to Chose a Leader: Machiavelli’s Advice to Citizens, offers solutions to contemporary political predicaments, say, the fallen Berlusconi or the rising Trump, for example. In the LA Review of Books Robert Zaretsky writes:

We are as weak now as we were then. We still want to believe, and not the small stuff. We want, instead, to believe the big stuff. The bigger the lie, the greater our satisfaction; the greater our satisfaction, the deeper our credulity. Yet Machiavelli, contrary to popular belief, does not applaud this sort of dissimulation. Instead, he agonizes over it. Time and again, he urges citizens to exercise their reason, to beware of leaders who appeal to their passions. In troubled times, he warns, citizens turn against minorities within their countries by turning them into scapegoats. This reflex, in turn, lifts to power those who promise to protect the people against their imagined enemies. The enemy of my enemy is not just my friend; he is my leader.

Utah radio interviewer Doug Fabrizio explores the book with Viroli on KUER’s Radio West. It is well worth a listen for a few fresh insights into