Peer-Reviewed Articles: 

Harden, John P. "Looking Like a Winner: Leader Narcissism and Wartime Decision-Making." Journal of Conflict Resolution (2023).

Abstract: Can an individual impact a phenomenon as overwhelming and complex as war? Do leaders impact interstate war dynamics? Leaders high in grandiose narcissism focus their efforts on maintaining their inflated self-image during war by striving desperately for victory. While most leaders sacrifice their historical image for state interests, more narcissistic leaders only exit wars if they “win”, or overcome threats to their self-image. Narcissists essentially ignore revealed information and create deadlock to avoid looking like losers. In other words, narcissistic leaders encourage us to look beyond traditional rationalist models of wartime dynamics. This paper analyzes United States’ interstate war duration from 1897 to 2007 and finds support for the argument that more narcissistic United States presidents extend war duration. This paper also compares Eisenhower’s handling of the Korean War and Nixon’s handling of the Vietnam War as an illustrative probe of causal mechanisms. 

Harden, John P. "All the World’s a Stage: US Presidential Narcissism and International Conflict." International Studies Quarterly (2021).  

Abstract: How do leaders matter? What do leaders want? Grandiose narcissism provides a pathway to understanding how personality can impact a leader’s preference formation and foreign policy behavior. More narcissistic leaders will focus their efforts on maintaining their inflated self-image by selecting how they will fight on the world stage and who they will fight against. While most leaders will divert attention to easier won battles, more narcissistic leaders will prefer to fight against high-status states by themselves. This article introduces a new measure of US’ presidential narcissism, and finds support for the argument that more narcissistic US presidents prefer unilaterally initiating Great Power disputes using data from 1897–2008. A brief review of Theodore Roosevelt’s handling of the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903 is used as a plausibility probe of the theory’s causal mechanisms. 

Working Papers:

Harden, John P.  "The Weight of Hypervisibility: Queer Leaders and Audience Costs."

Abstract: There is a rapidly increasing number of openly gay state and sub-state leaders. Do gay and lesbian leaders generate steeper audience costs? Theoretically, research establishing that gendered expectations impact leader decision-making could extend to gay and lesbian leaders. This work argues that the security arena is an especially masculine environment, where female leaders must overcompensate to avoid punishment for looking weak. Given these pressures, female leaders are able to make more credible threats given the greater degree of public punishment they receive. In the American context, gay men are often stereotyped as feminine, and gay women are often stereotyped as masculine.  Therefore, a lesbian leader, being stereotyped as masculine,  should experience less punishment than a straight female leader when making a threat and backing down. This paper argues that gendered expectations perspective is incomplete and forwards an alternative theory built from Queer Theory and LGBT Studies. Lesbians, being two steps removed from the hetero-normative expectation that a leader is a straight male, are hypervisible and are subsequently held to higher standards when representing their domestic society on the world stage. This paper uses a pre-registered survey experiment of the American public to test competing hypotheses regarding queer leaders and audience cost generation. Results support a theory built from a queer perspective as lesbian leaders are especially likely to face steeper costs for issuing a public threat and backing down.

Harden, John P.  "The Pull of Depression: Public Mental Health and United States Grand Strategy."

Abstract: The study of United States (US) Grand Strategy is largely a complex normative debate over what the 'right' approach to global politics is. While this contested debate has produced insight into the nature of the US' role in the world, there is a gap in our knowledge of what makes certain Grand Strategy platforms more likely. Recently, there has been a rise in candidates proposing the US retrench from the liberal international order. Of these, Donald Trump was most successful in being elected president. What accounts for the seeming rise retrenchment's popularity? Given the sophisticated nature of US Grand Strategy, I turn to pre-political human factors to explain public attraction to retrenchment, rather than assume rational appraisal of competing platforms. I argue that the concurrent rise of depression among the US public, especially among younger generations, accounts for a large part of why candidates running on retrenchment platforms are increasingly popular. This paper leverages a survey experiment to test my argument that depression accounts for susceptibility to retrenchment advocacy, especially when it is couched in terms critical of the status-quo. This fixation on opposing the status-quo provides candidates who run on these platforms greater permissibility in how they actually approach foreign policy once elected, raising questions about democratic accountability, mental health, and foreign policy.

Harden, John P. and Andrew Goodhart. "Reactionaries, and Relatability: How Russia Raises Support for its Foreign Policy Among US Conservatives by Signaling Similarity."

Abstract: There is widespread concern that Russian propaganda undermines the democratic discourse in the United States. The last ten years have also seen a notable partisan divergence in foreign policy views as Republicans become less hawkish toward Russia. This is occurring as the Russian government tries to promote Russian foreign policy in terms that appeal to these conservative audiences. To date, no study has tested the effect Russian propaganda has on conservative Americans' support for Russian foreign policy. We use a survey experiment to test the receptivity of conservative Americans to two types of Russian propaganda: messages that activate culture war issues and messages that exploit the psychological needs of narcissists.


Harden, John P.  ""I Just Want You to Think Big!": Narcissistic Leaders, Inflated Self-Image Maintenance, and Inconsistent Nuclear Weapons Policy."

Harden, John P.  "Attachment as Strategy: Attribution in International Relations"