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Stereotypes and Reputations for Keeping Security Assurances (Dissertation)

Committee: Professors Keren Yarhi-Milo (Chair), Gary Bass, and Aaron Friedberg

Negative national stereotypes, which often have racial or ethnic origins, prevent states from attaining a reputation as an assurance keeper. Reputations predict future behavior by explaining past behavior as the result of an actor’s characteristics. Negative stereotypes preclude formation of reputations for keeping assurances because people prefer to preserve their stereotypic preconceptions. To preserve their preconceptions, people explain a negatively stereotyped state’s choice to keep assurances as the result of transient situational factors, and not as a result of a state’s characteristics.  This leaves intact the state’s reputation as an assurance breaker despite evidence of kept assurances.  The study further argues stereotypes that depict a nation as incompetent do more harm than stereotypes that portray it as a competent aggressor.


The dissertation uses British assessments of the United States and Japan between 1910 and 1931 and a survey experiment to test the theory.  Both case studies depend on extensive archival research conducted at Britain’s National Archives and the British Library.  The different racially based stereotypes of Americans and Japanese produced reputations predicted by the theory.

Stereotypes and Security Assurances (Under Review)

Negative national stereotypes, many of which have racial or ethnic origins, increase distrust among states by undermining the credibility of their assurances.  A negative stereotype prevents formation of a reputation for keeping assurances.  Some negative stereotypes, however, prove more damaging than others.  Stereotypes that depict a nation as incompetent do more harm than stereotypes that portray it as a competent aggressor.  This paper outlines a general theory of how stereotypes affect reputation formation and then tests the theory’s predictions about the differential effects of stereotypes that attribute incompetence versus those that attribute high competence and aggressive motives.  Evidence from British reputational assessments of the United States and Japan between 1921 and 1931 supports the theory’s predictions.

National Stereotypes and States Reputations: An Experimental Approach 

This project uses a survey experiment to evaluate the different effects that unambiguously positive and unambiguously negative stereotypes have on a state’s reputation for keeping assurances.  It demonstrates that, even when states behave in identical ways, they may attain different reputations due to the different culturally and ethnically based national stereotypes applied to their people.