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From Data to Decision Making | Getting Inside the Head of Leaders and Advisers: A Data Collection Strategy for Historical Case Studies

January 18, 2024

Wendy He Headshot
Wendy He, Visiting PhD Candidate in International Relations

Wendy He is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU) and a visiting doctoral student at the University of Washington, Department of Political Science. Her research interests lie at the intersection of international relations and strategic studies, and focus broadly on the domain of political psychology, with specific interests in the interplay between emotions and the phenomenon of confidence in wartime judgment and decision-making. Before starting her PhD, Wendy was a Senior Research Analyst with the Military Studies Programme at RSIS, NTU, where she conducted research in military affairs and decision-making as well as taught military officers at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College. She received her Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History from the National University of Singapore, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the National Institute of Education, Singapore and her Master of Science in International Relations from RSIS.


February 13, 2023

1:30 -3:30 p.m.
Thomson Hall, Room 317

Register here

In the last few decades, a new wave of behavioral research has become prominent in International Relations (IR) and led to a welcome expansion of laboratory experiments as well as stimulating dialogues with neurosciences, biology, and genetics. Simultaneously, the study of leaders and their advisers has made a significant comeback. However, in the qualitative study of real-world foreign policy decisions, little progress has been made to provide IR researchers with a strategy to collect data on the mental processes of leaders and advisers. In this talk, Wendy will introduce the Critical Decision Method (CDM) – an influential knowledge elicitation method used by cognitive psychologists to mine people’s real, lived experience – and show how it can be adapted to historical case studies research in IR. She will explain how the CDM makes data collection on cognition more systematic and replicable by providing an 11-item checklist to guide observations on how the human mind works in crisis situations. To demonstrate how this data collection strategy works, she provides examples from the case of President Harry S. Truman’s decision to intervene in the Korean war and illustrates how the CDM checklist can provide novel insights to well-known decision-making processes in foreign policy. 

About the series

Join the UW-QUAL program for quarterly From Data to Decision-Making events, a speaker series that follows the qualitative research process from data collection to data analysis to policy-relevant impacts of research findings across a variety of fields.