Analysis depends on the skills, training, and judgment of the analysts. The four papers in this section report and apply behavioral and social sciences research on individual reasoning, intuitive theories of behavior, group processes, and intergroup dynamics. Each topic was selected because it represents some of the most significant challenges to and opportunities for improving the way analysts perform their work.
In Chapter 6, Barbara A. Spellman describes some of the vast research on individual reasoning. Much of that research details systematic shortcomings and biases in reasoning. Spellman illustrates how recent theories explain such shortcomings as products of people’s desire to seek causes and explanations of events, people’s tendency to see each situation as unique, and the interaction between conscious and unconscious reasoning systems. Understanding these general reasoning processes, and how they may lead to errors, can contribute to improving analysis by improving the design of analysts’ training, tasks, tools, and work environments.
In Chapter 7, Hal Arkes and James Kajdasz present the intuitive theories that guide individuals’ interpretation of others’ behavior, a fundamental task of intelligence analysts. They show how these intuitive theories are often wrong and how they can lead to erroneous inferences. As examples, they describe tendencies to attribute individuals’ actions to personal characteristics, neglecting situational constraints; exaggerate confidence in the quality of one’s assessments and predictions; underestimate the risk of relying on expertise; place unwarranted confidence in gathering additional information; and confuse the role of intuition in judgment. Arkes and
Kajdasz stress the critical importance of questioning and testing intuitive theories and assumptions.
In Chapter 8, Reid Hastie summarizes research into how analyses differ when carried out by groups and individuals. Understanding those differences provides opportunities to design more effective group processes. He notes that successful teams have been found to have four key features: (1) a clear, separate identity; (2) a clear purpose; (3) a structure appropriate to their tasks; and (4) a system of self-monitoring and regular feedback, allowing the team to learn from experience. Hastie notes, too, the inherent tensions between individuals and their groups—which often have both divergent and convergent goals—when trying to accommodate both the insights of individual opinions and the pressure for consensus. He shows how these tensions may be balanced differently depending on a group’s analytical task.
In Chapter 9, Catherine H. Tinsley considers the effects of social categorization on collaboration within the intelligence community. She notes that efforts to increase collaboration among agencies face the well-documented tendency for the members of any group to accentuate differences with the members of other groups. Such grouping of people into social categories has both benefits and costs that must be recognized for effective organizational design. That recognition is often hampered by the subtle ways in which groups’ culture and thinking shape their ability to understand and work with outsiders. Factors that intensify such intergroup biases include external pressures and strong or threatened group identification. Tinsley shows how awareness of these factors allows implementation of techniques that can improve collaboration, such as focusing on a higher-level group or minimizing group identification.