Working Papers

Policy Over- and Under-Design
November 2019

What does it mean that a policy is under- or over-designed? Despite a recent explosion of scholarly interest in policy design, no attempt has been made to systematically define these terms. To bring definitional clarity to these constructs, this paper proposes a definition of policy over- and under-design that focuses on the quality of information available to all participants in the policy design process. It therefore diverges from the standard policy theory assumption, according to which government efforts are ‘seamlessly calibrated’ to the policy problem at hand. Drawing on insights from the areas of psychology, management, and epidemiology, the paper identifies three phenomena—information overload, over-adjustment, and unnecessary adjustment—that enhance the specificity, and thereby the usefulness, of the terms under investigation. The paper defines policy over- and under-design, delving into their causes and consequences for policy costs, the probability of failure, the possibility of making changes at a later stage of the design process, and for implementation duration. It proposes relevant methodologies and concludes by offering guidance for future research.

Key Words: policy over-design, policy under-design, information, over-adjustment, policy overreaction, policy underreaction

A Social Network Perspective on the Interaction between Policy Bubbles
November 2019

A policy bubble is a socio-psychological phenomenon that occurs when policy overinvestment due to distorted policy valuation is sustained by positive feedback processes and contagion over an extended period of time. Studies of policy bubbles have so far ignored the possibility that a policy bubble in a given policy domain or jurisdiction may constitute an information event for another policy bubble that inflated elsewhere. In addition, studies of policy diffusion have paid little attention to the transmission of imperfect and wrongful policy valuations through social networks. To bridge these gaps, this paper develops a theoretical framework and methodological toolbox for explaining the potential impact of interbubble dynamics on the sustainment of policy bubbles. This is achieved by focusing on the diffusion of distorted factual information and experience-based (e.g., expert) judgment by highly-connected policy actors and entrepreneurs from one bubble to another through social networks characterized by varying levels of segregation. The main contribution of the paper lies in unpacking the potential causal mechanisms through which a policy bubble can be sustained, even if positive feedback processes and contagion in the jurisdiction within which it developed no longer bolster its support bases.

Key Words: Interbubble dynamics, connectivity information, social networks, network segregation

Disproportionate Policy Perspective on the Politics of Crisis Management

Disproportionate policy response—which is comprised of two core concepts, namely policy over- and underreaction—is typically understood to be a lack of ‘fit’ or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits deriving from this policy and/or between a policy’s ends and means. Drawing on the newly emergent disproportionate policy perspective, this chapter explores the disproportionate policy motivations and alternatives that help political executives gain leverage in the political game in times of crisis. It does so by outlining the conceptual foundation of deliberate disproportionate policy; describing the repertoire of policy over- and underreaction at the rhetorical and doctrinal levels as well as “on the ground” while illustrating their implications during crises; elaborating on the backlash costs of policy overreactions, the accumulation of which may lead to the discontinuation of such policies; and introducing a methodological toolbox that offers practical benchmarking strategies, such as perturbations in stock prices, legal proportionality, and comparative assessment of average responses to the crisis at hand. Its main contribution is theoretical in nature, highlighting an emerging angle for the study of elite decision-making in times of crisis. This angle sheds light on issues and tendencies relating to the challenges which policymakers encounter in times of global and domestic threats, in the face of publics that are relatively skeptical about politicians and political institutions and on the background of increasing negativity and populism in democratic politics.

Key Words: Disproportionate response, overreaction, underreaction, strategic crisis management, disasters, elite decision-making

Strategic Communication by Regulatory Agencies as a Form of Reputation Management: Findings, Critiques, and Response

This paper takes stock of studies that focus on regulatory agencies’ deliberate use of strategic communications as a form of reputation management, discussing the critiques that have recently surfaced and responding to them. To shed light on these issues, the paper begins by defining core concepts and briefly reviewing the major findings in this field, paying particular attention to regulatory agencies’ decisions concerning whether and how to communicate. It thereafter delves into the critiques of this research stream, which center on two aspects: (i) the claim that an agency’s communication choices are to some extent driven by the distinctive logic of the media rather than by reputational concerns, and (ii) the argument that strategic communication provides only short-term solutions to emerging threats and is therefore overemphasized in the literature. The paper responds to these criticisms and concludes by identifying unanswered questions that can inspire and guide future research.

Key Words: bureaucratic reputation; regulatory agencies; strategic communication; audiences; prioritizing

Why a Policy Bubble is Sustainable: The Role of Institutional Context
November 2016

This conceptual paper suggests a crucial revision to the policy bubble agenda, wherein some bubbles may emerge within institutional settings which support efforts by policy entrepreneurs to advance and correct distorted policy valuations (I have termed them preference-driven policy bubbles), whereas others emerge in settings which inhibit efforts to advance and/or correct the distortion (I have termed them institution--driven policy bubbles). Institutional restrictions on the visibility of the policy domain and on the voicing of dissent may lead to stronger and more sustainable distorted policy valuations, and thereby, to relatively stable and self-sustaining policy bubbles. The lack of such restrictions may lead to weaker and less sustainable distorted policy valuations and, thereby, to relatively fragile policy bubbles.

Key Words: policy bubbles, comparison, valuation, accountability, transparency

Emotion Regulation by Emotional Entrepreneurs: Implications for Political Science and International Relations
June 2015

Despite robust evidence that emotions can have a powerful impact on public opinion, political behavior, and foreign policy, few studies have directly addressed the possibility that emotions may be strategically regulated by political and policy actors. To systematically examine the role of emotion regulation in domestic and global political domains, what is needed is a framework for organizing the large number of regulatory strategies available to actors who wish to influence others’ emotions in pursuit of their goals. One such framework is Gross’s (2014) process model of emotion regulation, which previously has been used primarily to examine psychological processes at the individual level in healthy and clinical populations. We use this framework to present an overview of the emerging field of emotion regulation by emotional entrepreneurs at the local, state, national and global levels, to identify gaps in the relevant literatures in political science and international relations, and to propose a research agenda which revolves around whether different emotion regulation strategies and implementation tactics have different political consequences, both immediately and over the long term.

Key Words: Emotion Regulation, Emotional Entrepreneurs, Opinion Formation, Political Behavior, Social Movements, Public Policy