Reducing nuclear weapons risk

Behavioural insights and the human factor in nuclear decision-making
Research paper Published 6 December 2023 ISBN: 978 1 78413 595 9 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135959
A man in naval uniform sits at a desk in front of illuminated screens onboard a submarine.

There is a growing interest among policymakers and institutions in understanding how behavioural insights can be applied to help develop solutions to the behavioural shortcomings that might impede effective decision-making. But, until now, nuclear weapons policy has remained insulated from this discussion around behavioural insights and how they can improve the choice architecture in policy environments.

This research paper – a collaboration between Chatham House and the Behavioural Insights Team – highlights four aspects of nuclear weapons policy in which behavioural insights could be relevant and useful in enhancing decision-making: reducing overconfidence among those making the decisions; addressing concerns about miscommunication; minimizing errors in policy implementation; and increasing public and political engagement. Dedicated sections discuss each of these aspects and feature recommendations for all levels of the nuclear policy apparatus, as well as ideas and case studies of how such changes could be made.