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Problem Representation in Decision-Making
There is no need to stress the fact that the angle, from which a problem is viewed, affects the choice of the solution critically. The infamous Cuban Missile Crisis is a graphic example of the representation of the problem going wrong; each side of the conflict being unable to envision the situation from a different perspective, there was no redeemable value in any solution proposed.1
Herein the secret to the solution of all controversial issues lies: they need to be considered from all points of view that there are. The existing evidence shows that ontology, or the problem representation, defines the strategies adopted to address the issue in question.
Decision-Making and the Use of Analogies
Despite the undeniable fact that every single conflict is unique and, therefore, requires an original approach, which has been tailored in order to satisfy the demands of specific stakeholder, it would be wrong to deny the significance of analogies. One must keep in mind, though, that analogies should be used with a grain of salt when identifying the correct approach towards a certain dilemma.
Using analogies as the key strategy in the decision-making process is also quite a dubious strategy, as at times, analogies may seem rather deceptive: “not all analogies within a person’s repertoire are equal.”2 Therefore, the only possible way of integrating analogies into the decision-making process is to incorporate all possible scenarios into the design of the solution.
Driving a parallel between two specific historical events may seem an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of a specific approach towards a similar issue, yet it cannot be viewed as the silver bullet to any confrontation period; quite on the contrary, the use of analogies shows that, to attain success in negotiations, one must be flexible enough to tailor a certain strategy to a specific political or social situation and, therefore, design a unique solution based on previous experience.
True, an analogy can be utilized as a dependent variable in the analysis of a particular scenario.3 Nevertheless, any analogy must still be considered as merely an option of viewing the problem from a different perspective, and not an end in itself.
The Role of Counterfactual Reasoning in Making a Choice
As much as it is necessary to keep the focus on the actual situation and analyze the facts that have been presented, one still has to admit that the use of counterfactual information can also be considered among the most efficient methods of analyzing the past mistakes and learning to avoid them in the future: “Counterfactual reasoning thus seems unavoidable if one wants to study the past.”4
In other words, the counterfactual ideas provide a different option of viewing the conflict and, therefore, create the premises for a faster location of the existing solution. In many ways, counterfactual data helps attain a compromise even in the situations that seemingly offer very little choices to make by allowing the participants to make historical parallels.5
Reaching a reasonable compromise is the desirable outcome of any confrontation, and, when being in the process of negotiation, one must bear in mind the specifics of conflict solution, particularly, the necessity to represent a problem properly, the need to take the counterfactual arguments into consideration together with the basic information, and the importance of analogies.
Once the priorities are set straight, a compromise can be attained.
Brändström, Annika, Frederick Bynander and Paul Hart. ”Governing by Looking Back: Historical Analogies and Crisis Management.” Public Administration, vol. 82, no. 1 (2004), p. 193.
Khong, Yuen Foong. “The Psychology of Analogical Reasoning.” Analogies at War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. pp. 209–250.
Sylvan, David and Stephen Majeski. “A Methodology for the Study of Historical Counterfactuals.” International Studies Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 1 (1998), pp. 79–108.
Sylvan, Donald A. and Stuart J. Thorson, “Ontologies, Problem Representation, and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 36, no. 4 (1992), pp. 709–732.
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Taylor, Andrew J. and John T. Rourke. “Historical Analogies in the Congressional Foreign Policy Process.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 57, no. 2 (1995), p. 460–468.
1. Donald A. Sylvan and Stuart J. Thorson, “Ontologies, Problem Representation, and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 36, no. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 720.
2. Yuen Foong Khong, “The Psychology of Analogical Reasoning,” Analogies at War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 248.
3. Andrew J. Taylor and John T. Rourke, “Historical Analogies in the Congressional Foreign Policy Process,” The Journal of Politics, vol. 57, no. 2 (1995), p. 463.
4. David Sylvan and Stephen Majeski, “A Methodology for the Study of Historical Counterfactuals,” International Studies Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 1 (1998), p. 80.
5. Annika Brändström, Frederick Bynander and Paul Hart, ”Governing by Looking Back: Historical Analogies and Crisis Management,” Public Administration, vol. 82, no. 1 (2004), p. 193.