Patterns of error perceptual and cognitive bias in intelligence analysis and decision-making
Jones, Lloyd (Chad).
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The history of man is written in choice. Whether simple or complex, on a whim or after labored consideration, inflamed by passion or calculated coolly, the judgments that we form and the choices that we make define who we are and what we want for the future. Yet most of us have little or no conscious awareness of the inner workings of our own minds. We often choose without understanding or accounting for the perceptions, intuitions, and inferences that underlie our decisions. So how do people make decisions? How do we cope with the volume and complexity of information in our environment without being overwhelmed? How do we use our senses to select and process this information, and how do we organize, contextualize, and conceptualize it once it reaches our brains? How do we form judgments about the value of a specific piece of information or about the likelihood of a particular event or outcome? And what are the factors that lead us astray? The search for answers to these questions is more than academic; understanding the fundamentals of perception and cognition is critical to effective analysis and decision-making. For those involved in national security, and particularly for those involved in the collection and analysis of national intelligence, an appreciation of the intricacies of these processes has real-world implications. As evidenced by the dramatic intelligence failures of the last few years, and in particular by the mistaken assessment concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, understanding how we arrive at judgments and decisions can be quite literally a matter of life and death.
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