Podcast: Knowing how the other thinks: the brain and influence in international confrontations

To manage crises and escalation, or to conduct deterrence operations, it is necessary to forecast how the other will decide to respond to our actions. Effective deterrence and escalation management thus crucially depend on understanding human decision-making. Dr Wright applies two core new insights from the modern brain sciences. First, the neural phenomenon of “prediction error” that provides a tool to increase or decrease the impact of our actions. Second, specific social motivations that can limit deterrence and cause escalation and de-escalation. He discusses historical and contemporary cases, U.S. and Chinese doctrine, a China-U.S. escalation scenario and policy recommendations.

Speaker: Dr Nicholas Wright, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Nicholas Wright is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security at the University of Birmingham (UK) and a Non-Resident Associate in the Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC. He applies insights from neuroscience and psychology to decision-making in international confrontations. Prior to joining Birmingham and Carnegie, he examined decision-making using functional brain imaging at University College London and in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. He has published academically (e.g. Proceedings of the Royal Society), in general publications such as the Atlantic or National Interest, and with the Joint Staff at the Pentagon (see www.nicholasdwright.com/publications). He has briefed multiple times at the Pentagon, and also at the UK MoD, French MoD, German Foreign Office and elsewhere. He has appeared on the BBC and CNN.

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