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A psychosocial approach to national behavior, emphasizing the foreign policy roles selected by states, has proven to be a fertile source of insights into the ways states respond to their external environment. Disaggregating the phenomenon of role into several distinct processes—e.g., roletaking, role contestation, role enactment, and role transition—highlights interactions across different levels of analysis as part of a general process of role location. We focus in this paper specifically on the process of role-taking leading to role selection and conceive of this process as operating simultaneously at the state, domestic, and individual levels of analysis. Rather than assume that states simply choose roles, or that elite policy makers choose roles on behalf of their states, we propose in this paper a systems model and hypotheses about cross-level effects among elements in a complex adaptive system. This model relies on the auxiliary assumption that the congruence of strategic orientations across levels of analysis facilitates role selection, and that this congruence is observable in the rhetoric of political leaders. To analyze these cross-level effects, we employ Leadership Trait Analysis (LTA) coding of national role conceptions (NRCs), coupled with motive imagery assessment of U.S. presidents and statistical measures of U.S. power and domestic political arrangements, to test the theoretical proposition that coherent national role selection will emerge primarily when international, domestic, and individual motivations are congruent (aligned with one another). We hypothesize that these conditions are likely instances of role-taking that result empirically in the selection of strategic role orientations that are congruent with these role demands.


Prepared for presentation at the 37th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Ergife Place Hotel, Rome, July 4-7, 2014.


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