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date: 28 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Image theory proposes a way to structure the study of perceptions in international relations. It argues three core aspects of the way a relationship is understood, in particular the way the interdependence of goals, relative power, and relative status, which combine to motivate the construction of images that facilitate action, is understood. In the ideal-typical cases, these images resemble stereotypes that allow people to act on the emotions evoked by their understanding of the relationship. The stereotypes do this by presenting a cognitive picture of the situation that includes features that people believe release them from the moral prohibitions that would otherwise pertain. These motivated stereotypical images then operate as mental models with schemata-like properties, filling in missing pieces of information and shaping the search for new information and the interpretation of what it means.

Keywords: perceptions, images, stereotypes, motivated reasoning, emotions, cognitive biases, international relations, intergroup relations

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