Miller Center

Jonathan Renshon

Government, Harvard University

Fighting for Status: Prestige Motivations and Conflict in World Politics

Renshon photo

Jonathan Renshon is Trice Faculty Scholar and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Renshon received his Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University in 2012. The focus of his research lies at the intersection of the psychology of judgment and decision-making and international security. His work has appeared in Political Psychology, Foreign Policy and Journal of Conflict Resolution. He is also a researcher in the Emotion and Decision-Making Group at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory.

The purpose of his dissertation is to investigate how the concern for status and prestige affects states’ decisions in the domain of international security. There is widespread agreement, both within the political science discipline and the foreign policy community, that status matters, though very little in the way of focused research on how and when it does so. This has left us with two significant gaps in our understanding of how status affects national security and foreign policy behavior. Firstly, and most importantly, our understanding of status in international politics has been guided thus far by intuition, not by evidence. Furthermore, relying on the assumption that "status matters" has left us with no extant theory of variation in states’ concern for status or understanding of its specific implications for foreign policy or international conflict. What is needed—and what his research is designed to provide—is an investigation into the systematic ways in which the desire to increase or prevent the loss of status affects the behavior of states, especially as these concerns relate to the propensity for violent conflict.

Fellowship year: 2011

Mentor: William Wohlforth, Dartmouth College

Selected Recent Publications

"Status Deficits and War." International Organization (Forthcoming: June 22, 2016) 

"Emotions and the Micro-Foundations of Commitment Problems." with Jooa Julia Lee and Dustin Tingley, International Organization (June 2, 2016)

"The Interaction of Testosterone and Cortisol Is Associated With Attained Status in Male Executives." with Gary D. Sherman et al. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2015)

"Physiological Arousal and Political Beliefs." with Julia J. Lee and Dustin Tingley, Political Psychology 36, no. 5 (2015): 569-585.

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