Sunday, March 30, 2008

Poliheuristic Theory And Performativity: More Interesting Than They Sound (Liveblogging ISA)

I heard about two concepts for the first time at a panel at the now complete ISA convention: Poliheuristic Theory and Performativity. I thought that both ideas were worth exploring further.

Poliheuristic Theory is apparently a "theory of foreign policy decision making posits a two-stage process wherein the decision maker first employs a noncompensatory decision rule to eliminate politically unacceptable alternatives and then employs a (perhaps) traditional decision procedure to select from the remaining set of acceptable alternatives. (Note: See link above for source)" Everyone at the panel I attended insisted that the theory was descriptive rather than prescriptive which means that it is not very useful for intel analysis. Listening to the speakers, though, I thought that maybe there was something there. Anyway, worth further exploration.

Performativity (as I understand it and my understanding may well be flawed...) is the idea that people can begin to act in accordance with a theory, whether or not the facts and research that underlie the theory are correct or not.

Both concepts were used by Uri Shwed in his paper on the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. I found the presentation about the paper interesting (very intel-like) but the panel's discussant seemed to think the evidence was too circumstantial. If you are interested in that conflict or either of the two concepts above, you will have to contact Dr. Shwed as the paper is not in the Convention's archive.

1 comment:

Uri Shwed said...

Great to see my message got across the room...Performativity, however, is not simply people following an untrue theory - its the process by which theories become true. That happens when they are performed by people. Later, we register them as "true", transcendental to any particular actor. Yet as many have showed regarding economics and as I try to show regarding PH, the theory is dependent on the actors performing it. As for the evidence in the paper, I agree its circumstantial but I have found much stronger evidence in discussions following this session. Anyone who's interested in the paper can ask for the most current version.
Finally, I'm afraid I'm not a Doctor yet...