The cost of misinformation in deadly conflicts: Hawk-dove games and suicidal terrorism

James E. Hanley*, John Orbell, Tomonori Morikawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The hijacking and purposeful crashing of airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, prompts questions about why the passengers and crew of those airplanes did not act to prevent these attacks, as did at least some passengers on a hijacked flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. We argue, first, that humans have an evolved cognitive bias that leads to the expectation that antagonists hope to survive conflict and, second, that highly credible information to the contrary is needed to overcome this bias. Absent such information, the passengers on at least two airplanes incorrectly interpreted the game being played as a hawk-dove version of a conflict-of-interest game, when it was actually a "suicidal terrorism" variant of that family. Given that other terrorists may have been in the air and ready to act, the airlines' policy of not informing passengers about such events could have risked disabling them from reacting forcefully when force alone was advisable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
JournalPolitics and the Life Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Mar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration


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