Crisis Decisionmaking : A Cognitive-Institutional Approach

University dissertation from Stockholm : Stockholm University

Abstract: This dissertation, which is part of a research program on Crisis Management in the Baltic Sea Region (CM Baltic), probes the plausibility of integrating convergent elements of cognitive and neo-institutional theory to develop systematic research strategies suitable for use in dissecting, analyzing, and comparing historical cases of crisis decisionmaking. Particular emphasis is placed on the structure and dynamics of the small groups which figure prominently in crisis decisionmaking in a wide variety of cultures and institutional settings. The main empirical contribution of the dissertation is a detailed reconstruction of Swedish decisionmaking and communication processes during the acute phase of the Chernobyl Fallout Crisis of 1986. The case study draws upon archival materials, official documents and reports, mass media coverage, previous social science research, and interviews with crisis participants. The Chernobyl case is dissected into a series of eight distinct decision occasions which arose during the crisis. Three decision occasions in which small groups played an important role are then subjected to further scrutiny, making use of a procedure for small group process diagnosis developed in the dissertation. The case findings are placed in comparative perspective making use of results from a pilot study of group decisionmaking in the U.S. Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961 and a number of parallel studies from the CM Baltic 'case bank'. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of theoretical implications and potential lessons for practice.

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