Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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The Past, Present, and Future of Behavioral IR

September 18, 2020

In September 2020, Rose McDermott co-wrote, "The Past, Present, and Future of Behavioral IR," a piece curated to survey cutting edge research in psychology, neuroscience, and genetics and explore novel applications to the study of International Relations.


Originally developed by applying models from cognitive psychology to the study of foreign policy decision making, the field of behavioral IR is undergoing important transformations. Building on a broader range of models, methods, and data from the fields of neuroscience, biology, and genetics, behavioral IR has moved beyond the staid debate between rational choice and psychology and instead investigates the plethora of mechanisms selected by evolution for solving adaptive problems. This opens new opportunities for collaboration between scholars informed by rational choice and behavioral insights. Examining the interactions between the individual's genetic inheritance, social environment, and downstream behavior of individuals and groups, the emerging field of behavioral epigenetics offers novel insights into the methodological problem of aggregation that has confounded efforts to apply behavioral findings to IR. In the first instance empirical, behavioral IR raises numerous normative and philosophical questions best answered in dialogue with political and legal theorists.