Air Force officials are seeking volunteers for future training classes to produce operators of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt)

A Study Investigates the Psychology of Drone Strikes

Drone strikes are an increasingly common feature of modern warfare; and there have been numerous discussions in the academic literature and beyond about the effectiveness of drones strikes, the morality of the policy, and the larger implications of the United States’ growing reliance on drone strikes as part of a broader counter-terrorism strategy.

But for all this debate, there has been very little research into the psychology that surrounds drone strikes. Now, two academics out of George Washington University are compiling some exceedingly interesting and politically relevant research into the psychological forces that are shaping America’s drone policy.

Julia McDonald and Jacqueline Schneider recently published a fascinating paper in the Journal of Conflict Resolution that examines the relationship between a president’s tolerance for risk and his (or possibly her) preference for using drones. They are also in the midst of research into why soldiers in combat prefer, or not, manned vs unmanned air support; and the conditions under which the general American public is more or less likely to support drone strikes.

It’s cutting edge and cross disciplinary research and just fascinating stuff. On the line with me to discuss this research and its broader implications is the co-author of these studies, Jacqueline Schneider, a pHD candidate in residence at the Institute for Conflict and Security Studies at George Washington University.  Enjoy!

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