Cognitive mapping as a technique for supporting international negotiation

G. Matthew Bonham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This article explores the use of cognitive mapping as a tool for supporting international negotiation. Cognitive mapping was developed from the research tradition in cognitive psychology that was pioneered by Heider, congruity theory and attribution theory. Applied to political analysis, the technique can be used to represent causal and quasi-causal thinking about a specific policy area. Cognitive maps can be hand-drawn, or, in the case of maps consisting of more than 25 concepts, machine-generated for detailed and systematic analysis. Regardless of the format, cognitive maps can be examined to determine the most central concepts, the explanation of a problem in terms of its root causes and potential consequences, the use of evidence, such as historical analogies, internal consistency, and perceived consequences of policy proposals. Although the technique was designed to represent the views of individuals, cognitive maps can be aggregated to study collective decision-making. Applied to international negotiation, the technique can be employed as a substance-focused tool to represent and integrate knowledge about a specific policy area for use by negotiators. As a process-oriented tool, the technique can be used to help negotiators understand better their own assumptions about a problem, the viewpoints of other parties to the negotiations, and the ways others see their own position. In this mode, the technique has promise for promoting convergence of views and negotiated agreements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-273
Number of pages19
JournalTheory and Decision
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1993


  • Cognitive mapping
  • cognitive psychology
  • collective decision-making
  • international negotiation
  • knowledge representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Applied Psychology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • General Social Sciences


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