“Psychology of Intelligence Analysis” Notes

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards J. Heuer, Jr.



Perception: Why Can’t We See What Is There To Be Seen?

Memory: How Do We Remember What We Know?

Do You Really Need More Information?

Keeping an Open Mind

Creative thinking techniques

  • Deferred Judgment: generate all ideas first, then evaluate them
  • Quantity Leads to Quality: quantity of ideas eventually leads to quality; 1st ideas are usually most common or usual
  • No Self-Imposed Constraints: generate ideas without self-imposed constraints
  • Cross-Fertilization of Ideas: combine ideas and interact with other analysts

Structuring Analytical Problems

Multiattribute Utility Analysis

  1. List attributes you want to maximize
  2. Quantify relative importance of each attribute, to add up to 100%
  3. For each option you’re considering, rate it on each attribute
  4. Calculate which option best fits your preferences

Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

ACH steps

  1. Identify the possible hypotheses to be considered. Use a group of analysts with different perspectives to brainstorm the possibilities.
  2. Make a list of significant evidence and arguments for and against each hypothesis.
  3. Prepare a matrix with hypotheses across the top and evidence down the side. Analyze the “diagnosticity” of the evidence and arguments- that is, identify which items are most helpful in judging the relative likelihood of the hypotheses.
  4. Refine the matrix. Reconsider the hypotheses and delete evidence and arguments that have no diagnostic value.
  5. Draw tentative conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis. Proceed by trying to disprove the hypotheses rather than prove them.
  6. Analyze how sensitive your conclusion is to a few critical items of evidence. Consider the consequences for your analysis if that evidence were wrong, misleading, or subject to a different interpretation.
  7. Report conclusions. Discuss the relative likelihood of all the hypotheses, not just the most likely one.
  8. Identify milestones for future observation that may indicate events are taking a different course than expected.

What Are Cognitive Biases?

Biases in Evaluation of Evidence

Biases in Perception of Cause and Effect

Internal vs. External Causes of Behavior

  • Don’t overestimate the effect of a person’s or government’s internal personality or disposition on their behavior, and don’t underestimate the effect of their response to external situational constraints.
  • Don’t overestimate the effect of your response to your situation on your behavior, and don’t underestimate the effect of your personality.

Illusory Correlation

  • To determine a causal relationship, you must build a 2 x 2 contingency table that shows a strong relationship between factors A, B, Not A, and Not B.
  • There’s not enough data to say there’s a relationship between deception and high-stakes situations.

Biases in Estimating Probabilities

Hindsight Biases in Evaluation of Intelligence Reporting

Improving Intelligence Analysis

Analytical process

  1. Defining the problem: be sure to ask the right questions
  2. Generating hypotheses: identify all plausible hypotheses, then reduce them to a workable number of reasonable hypotheses
  3. Collecting information: collect info to evaluate all reasonable hypotheses
  4. Evaluating hypotheses: look for evidence to disprove hypotheses; consider using ACH
  5. Selecting the most likely hypothesis: choose the hypothesis with the least evidence against it; list other hypotheses and why they were rejected
  6. Ongoing monitoring of new information: specify criteria that would require reevaluation of hypotheses



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Chad Warner

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI), OSINT, & cybersecurity enthusiast. Seeking a CTI job. Bookworm. Fan of Tolkien & LEGO.