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Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

Perspective Taking and Security Dilemma Thinking: Experimental Evidence from China and the United States

Professor Ryan Brutger explains that one of the central challenges in China-US relations is the risk of a security dilemma between China and the United States, as each side carries out actions for what it perceives to be defensively-motivated reasons, failing to realize how it is perceived by the other side. Yet how susceptible to the psychological biases that undergird the security dilemma are the Chinese and American publics? Can their deleterious effects be mitigated?

The speaker explores the microfoundations of the security dilemma, fielding parallel dyadic cross-national survey experiments in China and the United States. Micro-level evidence is found to be consistent with the logic of the security dilemma in publics in both countries. IR scholars have overstated the palliative effects of perspective taking, which can backfire in the face of perceived threats to actors' identities and goals. These findings have important implications for the study of public opinion in China-US relations, and perspective taking in IR.

About the Speaker

Ryan Brutger is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.  He earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Prior to joining Berkeley, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Paul Lushenko is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and a Ph.D. student in International Relations at Cornell University. 


Presented by the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Co-sponsored by the Department of Government.