The War Trap Revisited: A Revised Expected Utility Model

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The expected utility framework developed in The War Trap is revised to correct several deficiencies. Risk-taking orientations are now treated as an integral part of the model by introducing concavity or convexity into the utility functions. The zero-sum properties of the theory are largely eliminated, and the tendency toward interpersonal comparisons of utility is removed. Several earlier results are replicated with the new model, and with annual capabilities data. New propositions are deduced that identify important limitations on conflict initiation, and relationships resulting from differences in perceptions are tested. Support is found for the contention that the revised version of the theory, of which the original model is a special case, is a powerful tool for integrating many extant hypotheses about conflict and for explaining a substantial portion of the tendency for some threats to escalate to violence or warfare and for others to be resolved peacefully.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)156-177
    Number of pages22
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 1985

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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