Decision-Making in the Face of Uncertainty: Attributions of Norwegian and American Officials

Daniel Heradstveit, G. Matthew Bonham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that when decision-makers are confronted with uncertainty they are more likely to engage in simple-minded thinking, such as the judgmental heuristics that have been studied by attribution theorists. In this article we examine how foreign policy decision-makers in Norway and the United States struggled with the uncertainties that surrounded a series of incidents in northern Norway involving Soviet ships. The analysis of cognitive maps based on open-ended interviews with the deci sion-makers reveals that their central beliefs influenced the way they processed information and made decisions. As predicted by attribution theory, Norwegians attributed their own actions to situational constraints, but they were more inclined to explain Soviet behavior as a function of dispositional factors. The American officials, on the other hand, interpreted Norwegian behavior dispositionally, and Soviet behavior situationally. The policy implications of the attribution behavior of the decision-makers sug gest a number of policy recommendations for both countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-356
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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