“Here is my first principle of foreign policy; good government at home.”

–William E Gladstone (1809 – 1989)

The original studies of foreign policy in the 1950s and 1960s were explicitly aimed at challenging the realist assumptions that were the dominant approach to International Relations at the time. Rather than examine the outcomes of foreign policy decisions, behaviourists sought to understand the process of foreign policy decision making itself. In particular, scholars like Robert Jervis, Harold and Margaret Sprout investigated the role of the individual decision-maker and the accompanying influences on foreign policy choice.  This emphasis on the individual decision-maker led to a focus on psychological and cognitive factors as explanatory sources of foreign policy choice. Scholars pointed out that the decision-making process was itself subject to the vagaries of group dynamics, while the constraints imposed by crises introduced further distortions to foreign policy choice. The result was a comprehensive critique of many of the key findings on foreign policy found in the traditional realist perspective.