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The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis Hardcover – September 1, 2010
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About the Author
Richards J. Heuer, Jr., worked for the CIA for nearly 45 years-first as a staff officer from 1951 until his retirement in 1979, and then as a contractor on a variety of projects until 1995. He began his career in the Directorate of Operations and later transferred to the Directorate of Intelligence, where he headed the unit working on analytic methods in the Office of Political Analysis. He went on to work as a consultant for the Department of Defense Personnel Security Research Center in Monterey, California. Mr. Heuer was awarded the Agency Seal Medallion in 1987 for developing and teaching an innovative methodology for addressing complex and challenging problems facing the intelligence community. He was recognized in 1988 for his "outstanding contribution to the literature of intelligence," and again in 1996 for "superior accomplishment." In addition to his work on the psychology of intelligence analysis, Mr. Heuer is a published author on counterintelligence, deception, analytical methodology, and personnel security issues. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Author of THE SHEQEL
Heuer's point is that `analysts should be self-conscious about their reasoning processes. They should think about how they make judgments and reach conclusions, not just about the judgments and conclusions themselves'. The book presents a discussion of how mental models and subconscious cognitive processes can limit our reasoning capabilities (especially when coping with uncertainty and doubt), as well as an introduction on how we can try to understand and negate these effects.
In his analysis, Heuer presents data from internal and external cognitive studies, scrutinizes past CIA success and failure cases, and proposes a re-evaluation of the way we generally look at problems. The author brilliantly makes his point in Chapter 13 by showing scenarios in which the reader is invited to review previous statements and `evidence' from the text, look at the discussion from different angles, methodically apply or remove certain models, and then compare his/her own conclusions as a professional analyst would be expected to do.
The outcomes are disturbing, but not surprising. Disturbing because it is alarming to see how our judgments are normally biased by previous experiences, pre-conceptions and mental models; also because it is extremely hard to change or even notice this fact by ourselves. Not surprising because we can see the same analytical problems happening over time; even when talented, trained professionals are warned about the dangers of cognitive biases, such as `events that people experience personally are more memorable than those they only read about. Concrete words are easier to remember than abstract words, and words of all types are easier to recall than numbers. [Information having the qualities cited] is more likely to be stored and remembered than abstract reasoning or statistical summaries, and therefore can be expected to have a greater immediate effect as well as a continuing impact on our thinking in the future'.
Heuer's presentation of the subject is very pleasant to read, fluid and rich in real-life examples from psychological research, political and military intelligence, and other domains. The author clearly differentiates empirical data from his own assumptions and opinions, even when his conclusions are naturally drawn from research data (i.e. following his own advice).
The book leaves the reader with some unanswered questions as to how one can change his/her own biased mental models to improve the outcomes of an analytical process, as many issues simply have no known remediation and are deeply rooted in the way humans reason. That being said, the greatest value of this book comes from Heuer's recommendations and logical steps to be followed in order to improve the accuracy of verdicts and conclusions, and avoid known cognitive traps that can ruin even an expert's assessment. Heuer also points out that by knowing about the existence and understanding the nature of the problem, we can further research ways to identify and isolate negative effects of cognitive limitations on our forecasts, plans, and professional judgements.
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***There is an error with the pages, because there is no page 83.