The process-outcome connection in foreign policy decision making: A quantitative study building on groupthink

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This article investigates whether certain factors pertaining to the process of foreign policy decision making have a measurable, qualitative effect on foreign policy outcomes. The research is grounded in the groupthink literature but incorporates different dimensions of similar underlying notions from other international relations areas as well. Three different types of process factors are investigated: situational factors, such as stress and time constraints; factors associated with the structure of the group; and information processing factors. We test the influence of these factors on two types of outcomes - a decision's effect on national interests and its effect on the level of international conflict. We investigate this link in 31 cases of decision from 1975 through 1993. Scores for the outcome variables are based on survey responses from 21 foreign policy experts. For the process variables, we develop sets of operational definitions and then code each case based on extensive reading of case-study materials. OLS regression models are used to assess the hypotheses. We find that situation variables matter very little in terms of affecting outcomes and quality of information processing. On the other hand, both group structural factors and information processing are significantly related to outcomes in terms of national interests and level of international conflict.

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International Studies Quarterly

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