As context, Brander quoted British General Sir Michael Jackson, who said, “Fighting battles is not about territory; it is about people, attitudes, and perceptions. The battleground is there.”
In their work, Brander said, there are a variety of possible foci. The first and most obvious is key individuals, such as political leaders, military leaders, business leaders, or opinion leaders. Beyond the individual level, the focus may be on teams or groups of people or larger social groups. In analyzing people at these various levels of aggregation, one can focus on such things as attitudes and opinions, cultural contexts, or the information environment in which the people function. Each of these foci requires expertise of a different sort—psychology for the study of individuals, social psychology for the study of groups, anthropology for the study of cultural contexts, market research for the study of attitudes and opinions, and so on.
Brander, who is a psychologist, initially worked with other psychologists. “Then we realized that wasn’t enough,” he said, “so we started to recruit anthropologists to work with us to better understand the cultural context. And then because of the importance of the information environment, we incorporated skills from media and marketing and journalism.” As a way of encapsulating what his group does and where the various difficulties arise, Brander displayed a pyramid (see Figure 4-1) adapted from that originally used by Sherman Kent, often described as the father of intelligence analysis. At the bottom of the pyramid is data. The difficulties facing analysts at this level generally arise from data that are incomplete, missing, or deceptive. The middle of the pyramid represents analysis, which can be weakened by bias or flawed analytical processes. At the top of the pyramid is the answer, or the assessment together with associated “likelihood” and “confidence” levels. There are a variety of ways to evaluate and to strengthen each of the parts of the pyramid, Brander said. In the case of data, for instance, there has actually been very little work done on the validity of data, he said, and thus there is generally the possibility that a collection of data is biased in some way. On the other hand, there has been some interesting work on how to improve data, and Brander offered an example from the field of social network analysis.
The network analysis involved groups of people believed to be adversaries, he said, although he would not be more specific. The groups were being viewed as a military organization within which there were various commanders who exercised military command and control. Brander’s hypothesis was that the data might also include some people who were not military commanders as such but rather who helped broker or facilitate between different organizations.
To illustrate their analysis of the data, Brander exhibited a figure that summarized a year’s worth of data they had investigated (see Figure 4-2).