This study presents an integrative review of the literature on Behavioural International Relations (BIR). It undergoes a detailed analysis of six texts dealing with the core issues in the field BIR. These texts are used as a foundation from which the review: i) Creates a conceptual framework for the notion of “cognitive bias” and identifies the potential value of better understanding its role in International Relations (IR), ii) Identifies behaviour incongruent with traditional IR theory and iii) Shows that this incongruent or anomalous behaviour may in fact be described by theories already present in the IR literature, namely within the literature of BIR.
The eclectic sample this study uses is selected according to criteria clearly stated in the methodology. The review will briefly note the roots of a ‘behavioural revolution’ within the political sciences, the subsequent rebellion against it, its more recent re-emergence and the utility of this re-emergence for understanding certain puzzling phenomena in IR.
The review begins by defining terms and outlining exactly what these key terms mean in the context of this review. The review briefly demonstrates some of the failings of traditional IR approaches to explain certain phenomena in IR. This literature review makes use of illustrative cases throughout, in order to demonstrate that the approaches synthesised in this review are better at explaining certain phenomena than traditional IR theory. The review discusses the possibility that outcomes labelled as bizarre may in fact be fairly congruent with a different kind of political analysis – that is, the type of analysis that BIR can offer.
By illustrating that human decision makers (individuals and groups) act in some predictably biased ways – and attempting to explain why – this paper explores the possibility of more correctly specifying what we classify as behaviour or misbehaviour. The study shows that events that have been considered the result of “misbehaviour” might simply be biased human cognitive processes playing themselves out. This review attempts to demonstrate the opportunity for more accurately defining and explaining baseline behaviour and enhancing our understanding of the causes, nature and results of cognitive bias in IR.