Is there method in our madness? Ways of assessing cognition in international relations

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Cognition is central to the study of international affairs and underlies concepts such as power and interest. Yet, in spite of its importance, only recently have methodologies been developed to systematically analyze cognition. This essay begins by identifying the role that cognition plays in international politics: it then looks at some of the challenges faced in trying to assess cognition and how technology is assisting with these challenges. The heart of the article is a review of work from four different research programs on cognition: operational code analysis, cognitive mapping, image theory, and conceptual complexity. Each area is examined with regard to theoretical developments, methodological approachs, and the correspondence of its forecasts with observed behavior. The essay concludes by discussing the possibility of synthesizing these four approaches and by raising some unresolved issues in our understanding of cognition and its role in international phenomena.

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Mershon International Studies Review

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