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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Threat perception has been central to theories of war, deterrence and compellence, alliances, and conflict resolution. Threat was initially equated to military power, but scholars then looked seriously at intention as a source of threat independent of military capabilities. This strand of scholarship produced “rationalist” models of deterrence and of war where signaling and credibility are the core analytic puzzles. At almost the same time, scholars in international relations schooled in political psychology explored threat “perception” and “misperception,” paying careful attention to the variance between what leaders perceive as threatening and what the evidence of intentions and military capabilities suggest. This chapter examines five nonpsychological explanations of threat perception that scholars in international relations have identified and then assesses the contribution of political psychologists who bring fundamentally different theoretical perspectives to the analysis of threat perception.

Keywords: threat, perception, rationalist, signals, intentions, capabilities, heuristics, loss aversion, emotion, collective appraisal

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