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Game tree analysis of international crises


  • Thomas R. Sexton
  • Dennis R. Young


Conflicts among nations can often be understood as games in which players (nations) possessing strategies (the sets of actions they may take) face alternative consequences (loss or gain of territory or prestige) determined by their choices of action. Amenable to this type of analysis is the recent Falkland Islands crisis involving Argentina and Great Britain. The events in this case provide an illustration of the way “three-stage, two-person sequential game tree models” can explain the outcome of a crisis situation, whether the parties involved possess perfect information regarding the likely actions of their opponents or are subject to misperceptions about them. When misperceptions occur, the effects can be severely detrimental to both players. Under certain conditions a single misperception by a player of an opponent's preferences can lead to conflict even though both players would have preferred another outcome, one that would in fact have resulted if the error in perception had not occurred. Thus, the outcome of such a “game” is highly sensitive not only to the players' actual preferences but to mutual perceptions of those preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas R. Sexton & Dennis R. Young, 1984. "Game tree analysis of international crises," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 4(3), pages 354-369.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:4:y:1984:i:3:p:354-369
    DOI: 10.2307/3324190

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