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The Power of Perceptions in Foreign-Policy Decision Making: Do Views of the Soviet Union Determine the Policy Choices of American Leaders?

Richard Herrmann
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 30, No. 4 (Nov., 1986), pp. 841-875
DOI: 10.2307/2111276
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111276
Page Count: 35
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Power of Perceptions in Foreign-Policy Decision Making: Do Views of the Soviet Union Determine the Policy Choices of American Leaders?
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Abstract

In this paper I consider the relationship between perception and policy choice in American foreign policy. My aims are to refine the treatment of perception by using the concept of schema and to examine the effect views of the Soviet Union may have on a wide range of policies. I try to identify whether or not leaders generalize from a basic "Soviet schema" and if they tend to apply a common framework across different policy arenas. I find that American leaders are badly divided on the "Soviet question" and disagree on the fundamentals of U.S. strategy. Views of the Soviet Union are found to be related to a great many decisions and provide a more reliable predictor of policy preference than several other independent variables. The predictive utility is not very satisfying, however, and suggests that belief systems may not be as highly integrated or schemata as rigidly and universally applied as sometimes thought. I conclude by considering the utility of using a two-schema model that combines perceptions of the Soviet Union with regional perspectives in the Middle East.

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