Publications by Author: Kertzer, Joshua D

Kertzer, Joshua D, and Brian C Rathbun. 2015. “Fair is Fair: Social Preferences and Reciprocity in International Politics.” World Politics. Publisher's Version Abstract

Behavioral economics has shown that people often diverge from classical assumptions about self-interested behavior: they have social preferences and are concerned about issues of fairness and reciprocity. Social psychologists show that these preferences vary across actors, with some displaying more prosocial value orientations than others. Integrating a laboratory bargaining experiment with original archival research on Anglo-French and Franco-German diplomacy during the interwar period, the authors show how fairness and reciprocity matter in social interactions. That prosocials do not exploit their bargaining leverage to the degree that proselfs do helps explain why some pairs of actors are better able to avoid bargaining failure than others. In the face of consistent egoism on the part of negotiating partners, however, prosocials engage in negative reciprocity and adopt the same behaviors as proselfs.

Kertzer, Joshua D, and Ryan Brutger. 2015. “Decomposing Audience Costs: Bringing the Audience Back into Audience Cost Theory.” American Journal of Political Science. Publisher's Version Abstract

According to a growing tradition in International Relations, one way governments can credibly signal their intentions in foreign policy crises is by creating domestic audience costs: leaders can tie their hands by publicly threatening to use force since domestic publics punish leaders who say one thing and do another. We argue here that there are actually two logics of audience costs: audiences can punish leaders both for being inconsistent (the traditional audience cost), and for threatening to use force in the first place (a belligerence cost). We employ an experiment that disentangles these two rationales, and turn to a series of dispositional characteristics from political psychology to bring the audience into audience cost theory. Our results suggest that traditional audience cost experiments may overestimate how much people care about inconsistency, and that the logic of audience costs (and the implications for crisis bargaining) varies considerably with the leader's constituency.

Kertzer, Joshua D. 2014. “Moral Support: How Moral Values Shape Foreign Policy Attitudes.” The Journal of Politics 76 (03). Publisher's Version Abstract

Although classical international relations theorists largely agreed that public opinion about foreign policy is shaped by moral sentiments, public opinion scholars have yet to explore the content of these moral values, and American IR theorists have tended to exclusively associate morality with liberal idealism. Integrating the study of American foreign policy attitudes with Moral Foundations Theory from social psychology, we present original survey data showing that the five established moral values in psychology—harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, authority/respect, ingroup/loyalty, and purity/sanctity—are strongly and systematically associated with foreign policy attitudes. The “individualizing” foundations of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity are particularly important drivers of cooperative internationalism and the “binding” foundations of authority/respect, ingroup/loyalty, and purity/sanctity of militant internationalism. Hawks and hardliners have morals too, just a different set of moral values than the Enlightenment ones emphasized by liberal idealists.


Political scientists have long been interested in the American public’s foreign policy mood, but they have typically separated the microlevel question (who’s more likely to support isolationism?) from the macrolevel one (when does isolationism’s popularity increase?), even though public opinion is inherently a multilevel phenomenon, as the answers to these two questions interact. Showing how multilevel models can deal with the effects of time rather than just space, I find that both guns and butter drive foreign policy mood, but in different ways. When economic assessments sour, the public’s appetite for isolationism increases, but the impact of these individual-level perceptions is constrained by aggregate economic conditions, which are sufficiently salient that they are accessible irrespective of knowledge. The nature of the international security environment, however, predominantly affects foreign policy mood amongst high-knowledge individuals, thereby suggesting that low- and high-knowledge individuals’ foreign policy views are shaped by different situational cues.

Kertzer, Joshua D. 2012. “Folk Realism: Testing the Microfoundations of Realism in Ordinary Citizens.” International Studies Quarterly 56 (2): 245–258. Publisher's Version Abstract

International Relations scholars have long debated whether the American public is allergic to realism, which raises the question of how they would “contract” it in the first place. We argue that realism isn’t just an IR paradigm, but a belief system, whose relationship with other ideological systems in public opinion has rarely been fully examined. Operationalizing this disposition in ordinary citizens as “folk realism,” we investigate its relationship with a variety of personality traits, foreign policy orientations, and political knowledge. We then present the results of a laboratory experiment probing psychological microfoundations for realist theory, manipulating the amount of information subjects have about a foreign policy conflict to determine whether uncertainty leads individuals to adopt more realist views, and whether realists and idealists respond to uncertainty and fear differently. We find that many of realism’s causal mechanisms are conditional on whether subjects already hold realist views, and suggest that emotions like fear may play a larger role in realist theory than many realists have assumed.