Does deterrence change preferences? Evidence from a natural experiment

Elisa Cavatorta, Ben Groom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


The deterrent effects of counter-violence initiatives could backfire if they cause preferences to change so that the perceived gains from violent actions increase. We test the preference-change hypothesis in a quasi-experimental design exploiting the random location of segments of the wall between the West Bank and Israel, an initiative intended to deter armed resistance. We undertake incentivised decision tasks with Palestinians to measure key individual traits that determine the valuation of political actions: preferences for risk, uncertainty and time delay. We show that people living close to the wall become more risk-tolerant, ambiguity averse and impatient than those unexposed to the wall, and this effect is amplified for people both exposed to and isolated (from the West Bank) by the wall. Preference-change could explain how repressive initiatives appear to perpetuate cycles of violence and resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103456
Early online date25 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • violence, preferences, resistance, natural experiment


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