The Reciprocal Fear of Surprise Attack

by Thomas C. Schelling


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An analysis of the idea that initial probabilities of surprise attack become larger through a “multiplier” effect as a result of the compounding of each person’s fear of what the other fears. In particular, the study examines whether and how this phenomenon can arise through a rational calculation of probabilities, or a rational choice of strategy, by two players who appreciate the nature of their predicament. An attempt is made to determine whether an explicit model of this predicament can be built in which two rational players are victims of the logic that governs their expectations of each other.

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