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The Psychology of StrategyExploring Rationality in the Vietnam War$
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Kenneth Payne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190227234

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190227234.001.0001

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The Genius of Command

The Genius of Command

(p.27) 2 The Genius of Command
The Psychology of Strategy

Kenneth Payne

Oxford University Press

Clausewitz argued that “genius” is a valued quality in commanders, but provided limited psychological insight as to what constitutes it, pointing largely to the ability to make timely decisions on the basis of uncertain information. This chapter outlines some profound constraints on decision-making in uncertain circumstances. Notably, strategists are influenced by a range of emotional biases, including an “impact bias” where current emotion shapes what they seek in the future. They also employ simplified models of cause and effect, seeking “cognitive fluency.” These themes are explored in the context of Vietnam, via a discussion of domino theory and the escalatory tendencies of emotionally engaged policy-makers.

Keywords:   genius, cognitive fluency, domino, escalation, Vietnam, war, strategy, physchological, emotional biases

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