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Chair: Dr Amanda Chisholm, Senior Lecturer in Security Studies / Researcher in Gender and Security

Discussant: Dr Kenneth Payne, Reader in International Relations/Head of Research at the Defence Studies Department

Speaker: Dr Eitan Oren, Teaching Fellow, Japan Programme/Department of War Studies

How do state leaders perceive foreign military threats?  Previous studies suggest that civilian leaders perceive threats in multiple different ways, including through related to the capabilities and intentions of adversaries; their pre-existing dispositions and biases; their impressions gained through diplomatic encounters or their theories about the link between anadversary’s behaviour and its underlying characteristics.

While these studies have advanced our understanding of how leaders select, combine, and interpret information to perceive threat, they do not theorise about important aspects of threat construction, including the core systems of the brain and body that shape perception, the mental structures that encode incoming information, and the distinctive features with which leaders experience the world.

In this talk, Dr Eitan Oren will draw on the neuroscience theory of constructed emotion and the linguistics framework of conceptual semantics to develop an approach to describing how leaders construct foreign military threats by using core systems of the brain and body.

He will highlight how this approach carefully integrates insights from neuroscience and linguistics to expand our perspective on threat perception in International Relations. He will also show how it charts dynamic pathways by which leaders both understand and experience foreign military threats in the international system. Finally, he will reveal how it provides a new framework by which others may pry open questions concerning the interplay between individuals and the international system.



Dr Eitan Oren is a scholar of International Relations. His research interests lie at the intersection of international security and the human mind. Over the past decade, he has examined when, why and how leaders and government organisations perceive security threats, mostly in an East-Asian context.

The results of this research have been published in the International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Risk and East Asia, Foreign Affairs, Journal of Cold War Studies, and the Australian Journal of International Affairs.

Funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s Special Programme Security, Society and the State, Oren’s next research project examines how different government organisations in East-Asia and in Western Europe – democracies and non-democracies – evaluate futures strategic trends, threats, and opportunities; how accurate these assessments were, and what was their impact on national-security policy making.

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At this event

Eitan Oren

Lecturer in War Studies Education

Kenneth Payne

Professor of Strategy

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