Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



In the context of conflict maneuvering and bargaining, can state actors employ strategies of provocation designed to extract private information regarding the resolve of their adversaries? This project argues the affirmative. Extant literature has examined the various ways state actors seek to increase their pay-offs when haggling over salient issues. Significant work, including scholarship on costly signaling, has been done on how actors seek to affect the perception of their opponents. However, current literature is lagging in explaining actor strategies aimed at informational extraction instead of its communication or manipulation. This project seeks to fill the void by considering the tactic of provocative probes. The manuscript argues that states can gain an informational advantage by provoking their opponents to solicit information on their adversaries’ commitment to a specific issue. The validity of this theory is examined through a quantitative analysis of a novel dataset and a qualitative review of historical cases. The quantitative section finds significant statistical evidence that probing can generate reliable information on the level of resolve of the target, allowing a challenger to adjust her bargaining strategy in subsequent interactions with the target. The qualitative section, in turn, makes use of process tracing to test the theoretical underpinnings of probing against the backdrop of case-specific events. Similar to the statistical interrogations, the qualitative examination of cases finds that the logic of probing is empirically supported.



Committee Chair

Sobek, David



Available for download on Friday, March 09, 2029