A recent research has found that over-confident people are more likely to wage war but fare worse in the course of an ensuing battle. It suggests that ‘positive illusions’ may contribute to costly wars. Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut in the US states that the study ‘supplies critically needed experimental support for the idea that positive attitude – which is generally a [beneficial] feature of human behavior – may lead to overconfidence and [damaging] behavior in the case of war.’
Peter’s observation comes in the backdrop of scientific conclusion that mentally healthy people can have highly optimistic predictions, or ‘positive illusions.’ While these optimisms offered evolutionary advantages in the past and allowed the ancestors to cope with the condition of their times, it is now argued by researchers that these very same optimism in the present day have the potential to wreak chaos on international relations.
An analysis of a stimulation organized by Dominic Johnson of Princeton University in New Jersey indicated that people with overconfidence tended to perform worse than they expected and that ‘positive illusion’ was suggested to be the cause. It has further been determined that men have generally tended to be more overconfident than women and raises the question of whether that’s the reason why men are more likely to wage war. While these aspects do contribute towards the collective behavior of people, the interplay between nature and nurture continues to reveal the various facets of human mind and behavior and their response to war and peace.
Another interesting find was that people, who were more prone in launching unprovoked attacks on others, demonstrated more narcissism. This trait applies to both men and women and Bertram Malle from the University of Oregon in Eugene suggests that it is the level of ‘narcissism that makes some people overly optimistic and aggressive.’ In his response to the worrying question raised by the research about political leaders, Malle is categorical in his response that ‘perhaps most disconcerting is that today’s leaders are above-average in narcissism.’
The crucial cause for concerns that has risen from these researches has been the finding that people have a partial leaning to opt for war, rather than choosing careful negotiations with opponents to resolves issues. The decision to opt for war as a means is directly determined by the amount of investment a people have made on their military and their calculated risk on the element of chance. This feature of collective behavior raises serious questions and in part provides some crucial findings in the search for answers of peace.
While one must consider the fact that the people who volunteered to participate in these research study and stimulation as samples do represent a very specific geographical socio-cultural and political reality, one cannot just simply brush the findings of these studies. With the concept of global phenomena and especially with global educational institutions and training of human behavior in multi-national corporates, and of course with the State being its most global institution, there are lessons to be learned.
Perhaps in part, it helps create an understanding that responds to why countries that invest so heavily on military rely more on war as an option over peaceful negotiation. It does also sharpen the analysis on why over-confident governments and administrations are over-optimistic of their militaristic policies, only to see it falter and ultimately fail. The findings of the research should enable a deeper viewpoint on why powerful countries such as the US, Israel and India, behave the way they do.