The Emotional War – How Bad News Effects Decision Making

Dolan“Emotion and Strategic Learning in War” an article recently published by Assistant Professor Thomas Dolan. The article was published in the International Studies Association Journal Foreign Policy Analysis. Dr. Dolan explores the hypothesis that anger and anxiety—responses to different kinds of bad news—determine whether leaders alter their war aims or strategies, or decide to ‘stay the course’. The research was structured by ‘setting the stage’ for how people think about these decisions: the information that they focus on, their willingness to look more closely at the problem and their readiness to consider alternatives. The article goes on to test the hypothesis by using cases from the World-War II-era Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union and shows that both the democratic Finnish leaders and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s responses to successes and failures were consistent with these expectations.  The findings are not limited to history, however: whenever war leaders confront bad news, their emotional responses will play a central role in determining how they respond to it.

Dr. Dolan is currently teaching graduate courses on International Politics and Advanced Qualitative Methods.  Next semester, he will be teaching the undergraduate course “Causes of War” and a PH.D level course on International Security.  He is currently working on other projects involving the effects of emotion on political decision-making, the effects of honor on bargaining between nations, the prospective role of cyber-attacks in international relations, the threat perception from terrorism and the “just war” theory.

The article can be accessed here.



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