School of Social and Political Science

Consuelo Thiers

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PhD title: How Political Leaders Shape International Rivalries: A Psychological Study of Resilience and Variability in Chilean-Bolivian and Chilean-Peruvian Relations

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*Consuelo successfully defended her PhD in November 2020

My research sought to understand the reasons that underlie the life-cycle of long-lasting conflicts between states. It looks at two conflicts in South America; the Chilean-Peruvian and Chilean-Bolivian rivalries. This work argues that political leaders, such as presidents, vice-presidents, foreign affairs, and defence ministers play a central role in shaping both the durability and variability of these conflicts over time. This research considers that understanding these leaders’ psychology and revealing their main beliefs and emotions regarding the rival country will help comprehend the reasons why they have made certain decisions that have led to cooperation and escalation of tensions in the past. In order to carry out the analysis, the work draws on information retrieved from interviews conducted with political leaders in Bolivia, Chile and Peru, as well as interviews found in media outlets, speeches, official websites, and official documents.

The findings show that political leaders from the three countries, in charge of making decisions, have played a significant role in both promoting the continuation of the conflict, as well as in prompting periods of cooperation and escalation of tensions. Leaders from each state present shared beliefs and emotions regarding the rivalry, which have helped perpetuate the overall negative relationship between these countries. For example, Bolivian leaders most salient psychological characteristics are the sense of collective victimhood, anger, and hope. In the case of Peru, the most significant psychological features present in leaders regarding the sustained rivalry with Chile are the collective sense of humiliation, anger, and distrust. Finally, Chilean leaders’ main psychological characteristics are a collective sense of superiority, apathy, and distrust. The research is able to produce these findings using a systematic way of comparing the content of political leaders’ words.

On the other hand, this research also found that despite these shared emotions and beliefs, individual leaders can make a difference in breaking the rivalry cycle. Broadly speaking, the results showed that periods of escalation of the conflict had been marked by a less friendly perception of the political context (in this case the rivalry) and a more pessimistic perception towards the realisation of political goals. Periods of cooperation have been characterised by a friendlier perception of the rivalry, a more optimistic stance towards the realisation of political goals, and a very cooperative strategy to deal with the conflict.

This research contributes to knowledge in three ways. First, it makes an empirical contribution by applying political-psychological concepts to help shed light on the dynamics of two rivalries that have not previously been studied using this framework. In doing so, it advances the understanding of foreign policy elites’ emotional and cognitive variables involved in both the continuation and variability of the Chilean-Bolivian and Chilean-Peruvian rivalries. Second, this research also makes a theoretical contribution to the broader study of interstate rivalries in International Relations, as it offers an alternative explanation to help understand political decisions that cannot be fully explained starting from traditional state-centred approaches. This thesis also advances the literature on leadership analysis as it confirms that decision-makers play a crucial role in shaping both the endurance and the variation of rivalries. Finally, by developing, implementing, and applying a content analysis tool to assess political leaders’ beliefs in the Spanish language, this thesis also adds a methodological contribution. In this sense, this work constitutes a step forward towards advancing research in the Foreign Policy Analysis field to include non-western contexts.


Prof. Juliet Kaarbo and Dr Kristen Hopewell


M.A in International Studies, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

Dissertation: “Latin American Political Leaders: A study of personality at-a-distance”

B.A in Psychology, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

Teaching Experience

  • Senior tutor on Introduction to Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (2019-present)
  • Tutor on Global Security, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (2019-2020)
  • Tutor on Introduction to Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (2017-2019)
  • Lecturer in Psychological Assessment, Universidad SEK, Department of Psychology. Santiago, Chile (2014 – 2016)
  • Lecturer in Psychological Assessment, Universidad UNIACC, Department of Psychology. Santiago, Chile (2012 – 2016)
  • Lecturer in Personal Development, Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Department of Early Childhood Education. Santiago, Chile (2013 – 2015)
  • Lecturer in Learning Psychology, Universidad Chileno-Británica de Cultura, Department of Education. Santiago, Chile (2013)


  • Politics and International Relations Career Development PhD Scholarship (2016-2018). The University of Edinburgh.


  • Center for Contemporary Latin American Studies (University of Edinburgh) Santander Kick-start research funding. With Dr Carlos Soler (2018). Project: “Political past. Temporal and spatial dimensions of the grammar used in Latin American political discourse”
  • Student initiative grant for the conference "Foreign Policy Analysis and Role Research". With Saskia Smellie and Dr Victor Gigleux (2017)
  • Travel research grant, Universidad de Chile (2012)


  • The Sue Grant Service Award: contribution to the community through extracurricular work. With Saskia Smellie and Dr Victor Gigleux (2018)


  • Thiers, C. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Steering Effects of Operational Code Beliefs in the Chilean-Bolivian Enduring Rivalry. Book chapter in Mark Schafer and Stephen G. Walker (eds.) Operational Code Analysis and Foreign Policy Roles: Crossing Simon’s Bridge. Routledge. [forthcoming]
  • Klaus Brummer, Michael D Young, Özgur Özdamar, Sercan Canbolat, Consuelo  Thiers, Christian Rabini, Katharina Dimmroth, Mischa Hansel, Ameneh Mehvar, Forum: Coding in Tongues: Developing Non-English Coding Schemes for Leadership Profiling. International Studies Review.
  • Dubé, Sebastien & Thiers, Consuelo (2017). Social Group Dynamics and Patterns of Latin America Integration Processes. Revista de Estudios Sociales, (60). 25-35.
  • Thiers, C. (2017, July 12) [Review of the book Latin America’s Leaders by R. Diamint & L. Tedesco]. Political studies review, 15 (4), 675-676.

Participation in Conferences

§ Thiers, C. (2019). Long-lasting conflicts in Latin America, the cases of Chile-Peru and Chile-Bolivia (ISA) Annual Conference, Toronto.

§ Thiers, C. (2019). Profiling leaders in Spanish: Operational Code Analysis. International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Conference, Toronto.

§ Thiers, C. (2018). Profiler Plus: Spanish translation of the Leadership Trait Analysis Coding Scheme. International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Conference, San Francisco.

§ Dubé, S. and Thiers, C. (2017). Social Group Dynamics and Patterns of Latin American Integration Processes. International Society of Political Psychology Annual Scientific Meeting (ISPP), Edinburgh.

§ Thiers, C. (2017). Latin American Political Leaders: A study of personality at-a-distance. International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Conference, Baltimore.

Media and opinion pieces

Thiers, Consuelo (November. 2020). Trump, Piñera y la narrativa polarizadora. El Mostrador Link

Beasley, Kaarbo, Thiers (October. 2020). Leader Personalities: Trump vs. Biden. Duck of Minerva Link

Thiers, Consuelo (Feb. 2020). La mentira como estrategia política. El Mostrador Link

Thiers, Consuelo (April 2020). Liderazgos políticos en tiempos de Coronavirus. El Mostrador Link

This is my blog

Administrative Experience

Research Grant Administrator, Millenium Nucleus Center of Stochastic Models,  2014-2016.


Spanish - native speaker

English - fluent


Foreign Policy Analysis research group. University of Edinburgh

International Studies Association- ISA

Latin American Studies Association- LASA

International Society of Political Psychology- ISPP

Society for Latin American Studies-SLAS

Research interests

Research interests

Political psychology, Foreign Policy Analysis, Latin American Foreign Policies, At-a-distance personality assessment of political leaders