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Policy Overreaction in the Context of Security Issue Complexes: An Explorative Approach to Further Conceptual Theorizing

Foreign Policy
International Relations
Political Theory
Security
Analytic
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Moshe Maor
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Moshe Maor
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Abstract

This paper is aimed at analyzing particular reaction patterns in the context of selected security complexes by referring to disproportionate policy perspective and the derived repertoire of intentional policy overreactions. The paper has a strong conceptual and theory-developing intention. Although research examining overreaction in politics and policy remains at an early stage, it is clear that it largely develops along three paths. The first path comprises psychological explanations which put all overreactions down to errors derived from cognitive biases and constraints on information processing, as well as socio-psychological dynamics in small decision-making groups. The second path comprises newly-emerging institutional explanations which put all overreaction down to errors derived from institutional values, procedures, myths, and routines. The third path comprises newly-emerging strategic explanations which revolve around the idea that at times overreactions in politics and policy reflect intentional choices which may be carefully developed, meticulously debated, executed as planned, and successful in achieving the intended goals, especially during crises involving panic and public fears. This chapter explains the conceptual foundations of these explanations, their analytical anatomy and their conceptual reach. It starts by defining overreaction in politics and policy, and then elaborates on the analytical foundations of these explanations and the ways they integrate theories and findings from cognitive sciences into organizational systems of human action. It then highlights the disproportionate policy response and the derived repertoire of intentional policy overreactions, including the distinction between overreaction rhetoric and doctrines, as well as the demarcation between selective and non-selective overreaction. Next, it elaborates on the way strategic explanations reconcile intentionality with behavioral micro-foundation. It then looks at policy overreaction which is sustained by positive feedback processes and contagion over a relatively long period of time—a phenomenon termed “policy bubbles.” It concludes by sketching out a number of directions in which the overreaction agenda could be experimentally broadened to better encompass scope conditions of its cognitive causes and the dynamics of policy bubbles as applied to specific security complexes.