Monday, May 3, 2010

Behavioral and Psychosocial Considerations in Intelligence Analysis: A Preliminary review of Literature on Critical Thinking Skills

This article is a review of published literature in the fields of psychology, education, and intelligence analysis to look for any information related to the link between critical thinking skills and an improvement in intelligence analysis. From the review, the 2nd LT Chin Ki Tam found that as of October 2008 there was very little information related to the link between critical thinking and the improvement of intelligence analysis. The problem begins, similar to intelligence itself, with a lack of one true definition of critical thinking.

In response to the tasking from the Air Combat Command that came of a January 2008 meeting at Langley Air Force Base, the 711 Human Performance Wing Continuous Learning Branch looked into existing literature in psychology, education, and intelligence. The goal was to combine the information to provide a picture of whether the teaching of critical thinking truly improves intelligence analysis.

The results of this literature review show that there is no consensus on the definition of critical thinking nor is there a consensus on what exactly is a “critical thinking skill” and which skills a person should utilize to conduct critical thinking.
The results of a Delphi study conducted in Feb. 1988 to November 1989 show that six skills are necessary for critical thinking. They are: Interpretation, Analysis, Evaluation, Inference, Explanation, and Self-Regulation.
Beyond all the literature related to what exactly critical thinking is, only a few people have written about how critical thinking and intelligence analysis correlate. One of these authors is Dick Heuer in his book, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. He writes about cognitive bias. He defines these biases as: selectivity bias, availability bias, absence of evidence bias, confirmation bias, overconfidence bias, oversensitivity to consistency bias, and discredited evidence bias as the biases that lead to flawed intelligence analysis.
In addition to all the information related to what critical thinking is and how it relates to intelligence analysis there is another problem of how people learn. The article talks about how people have different learning styles and that critical thinking in one domain in no necessarily transferable to another domain. Without tackling the problems associated with learning it is difficult to apply such thinking techniques to intelligence analysis.

Correlation and Current Intelligence Curriculum
Research has yet to be conducted to show whether or not critical thinking truly improves intelligence analysis however different agencies within the US Government have begun to institute programs designed to help with the development of critical thinking skills. The CIA, NSA, and DIA have all begun a training program for analysts designed to improve critical thinking skills. The most novel of which is DIA working to utilize gaming as a way to improve intelligence analysis however they only invested $2.6 million for the development of three games. This drastically limits the ability to be truly high quality learning tools when one considers that the average XBOX game costs between $3 million - $5 million to produce from start to finish and the average XBOX 360 or PS3 game costs around $10 million to produce. (Edwards, 2006)

Although the intelligence community has invested heavily in the improvement of cognitive thinking skills, there is no evidence that directly links the improvement in these skills to the improvement of intelligence analysis. It would be a great help in the future if studies were designed to show whether there is an improvement. These studies would go a long way in justifying more or less money being put into the budgets of such training programs for future analysts.

Edwards, R. (2006, May 5). The economics of game publishing. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from IGN website:

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