RECOBIA NEWSLETTER ISSUE 2 (June 2013)
The RECOBIA consortium is delighted to send you the second issue of the RECOBIA newsletter.
The objective of the FP7-Funded RECOBIA project is to improve the quality of intelligence analysis. To this end the 10 partners of the consortium will provide an assessment of cognitive biases and define how the cognitive biases affect intelligence analysis. Building on this initial assessment, best practices to reduce the negative impact of cognitive biases will be defined, and likely to be found in the domain of software tools, training of analysts, and organisational issues.
The objective of this newsletter is to inform you about the progress of work, and upcoming results. In this newsletter you will find an editorial from the project coordinator, updates about the workshops, a list of our online reports and publications, and new items in the “library section”!
We remain at your disposal should you have any remark, questions, or should you want to join the project. You can contact us via the contact form on the website. For more information, please visit www.recobia.eu.
The RECOBIA Project Team.
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Editorial from Frederik Schumann, the RECOBIA project coordinator
How the “share article” button reveals flaws in the mind of intelligence analysts
Everybody receives articles sent by friends or colleagues. “I found this very interesting article and thought it might interest you” the subject line usually reads. What you can conclude right away is that the article will probably reflect the opinion of the sender. If the sender and you share the opinion on the subject, you will probably also like it. Why is this? The answer is simple: because we like to read what reflects and supports our opinion. We like to confirm our opinion. Hence we welcome and pay attention to information that supports our opinion. However, we tend to ignore or reject information that challenges or contradicts our opinion. In fact, we will probably forget it – it will not stick in our memory.
This behaviour is absolutely normal. It is human. And all humans have the tendency to be subjected to this mechanism. We like to confirm the opinions we hold and tend to disregard information that challenges them. This mechanism helps us in our daily life to cope with information overflow by disregarding everything that does not fit in our view of the world. The process at work is called the confirmation bias, one of about 200 or so cognitive biases that have so far been identified. A cognitive bias is an involuntary and subconscious mechanism and we are not aware when it happens. On the positive side, these covert “operating procedures” help us to navigate in a world of information overload.
However, what is helpful to keep us sane and limit incoming information might also have negative effects on us, particularly in intelligence analysis. How can an analyst deliver a reliable report to the political decision-maker when he or she disregards all information that contradicts his pre-existing opinion on the subject? Well, they can’t. Thanks to Mr. Heuer and a few others, the intelligence community - as well as governments - realised the crucial role that cognitive biases play in analysis.
In this spirit, the European Commission is co-funding the RECOBIA project, which is designed to REduce the negative impact of COgnitive Biases in Intelligence Analysis. The RECOBIA consortium consists of specialists in intelligence and in cognitive psychology. In order to make the project relevant and its results usable and useful for the intelligence community, the consortium organises workshops with intelligence professionals from European institutions and Member States of the European Union. In those workshops the project team seeks to understand how the different intelligence services work, where cognitive biases come into play and how possible solutions could be developed. Operational constraints and the particularities of intelligence work are taken into consideration, such as secrecy, the reality of the ‘need to know’ paradigm and the constraints inherent to large public organisations.
RECOBIA estimates that the solutions to reduce the negative impact of cognitive biases are likely to be found in technology, in training of analysts and/or organizational and methodological aspects of intelligence, or a combination of the above. At the end of the project, in January 2015, the project will present a catalogue of solutions to the end-user community. Cognitive biases pose a challenge to intelligence analysts who are responsible for the security of citizens and their governments. The findings of the RECOBIA project will help intelligence organisations to mitigate this challenge.
An end-user centric project: workshops
In the framework of the project, three workshops have already been organised. The objectives of these workshops are to ensure the commitment of the end-user community along the duration of the project and thus producing practical and operational outcomes that are in accordance with the ‘real world’ needs and requirements of the intelligence community.
Upcoming Workshop (fall 2013)
The next workshop of the RECOBIA project will take place in fall 2013! More information about this event will be published in the coming weeks.
Third Workshop (April 2013)
The third RECOBIA workshop was held in Madrid on 4 & 5 April 2013. Fifteen intelligence professionals representing European institutions and national agencies attended the workshop. During this workshop, participants were notably invited to discuss, debate, and comment on the different ‘Key intelligence tasks’ identified by the consortium. These 'Key intelligence tasks’ are linked with cognitive tasks that are likely to trigger cognitive biases.
The minutes and presentations from the third workshop are available online: https://www.recobia.eu/articles/workshop-3-minutes-presentations
Previous workshops (2012)
Proceedings from the previous RECOBIA workshops are available online! You will find them on the RECOBIA website.
Reports and publications from the RECOBIA consortium
Reports produced in the framework of the RECOBIA project can be found online. You will find several reports in the publication section of the website: http://www.recobia.eu/publications. Please find below the latest reports:
- Synthesis Report on the Intelligence Cycle (February 2013)
- Report on Dissemination (February 2013)
- Report on Models of Reasoning and Decision Making (January 2013)
The RECOBIA consortium is happy to report that the Library section of the website is now up and running and is being updated regularly.
The objective of this section is to provide end-users and general public interested in the area of intelligence analysis, and cognitive biases, essential readings and publications on the topic, and all in one place.
You will find in the library section several types of documents: news articles, reports, videos, and fun ways to learn about cognitive biases!
- Cognitive biases are bad for business (Article, Psychology Today)
- Why FBI and CIA didn’t connect the dots (Article, CNN)
- The innovator who knew too much (Blog Post, HBR Blog Network)
- The hidden biases in Big Data (Blog Post, HBR Blog Network)
- Kahneman talks rationality (Article, Yale Daily News)
- SIRIUS, an IARPA program (Publication, IARPA)
- Why even radiologists can miss a gorilla hiding in plain sight ( Article, NPR)
- Budgets and Biases: Summing up American values (Article, The Huffington Post)
- Cognitive biases: what they are, why they’re important (Video, YouTube)
- The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational (Article, i09.com)
- A pickpocket’s tale: The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins (Article, The New Yorker)
- Humility, The Scientist and the Intelligence Analyst (Blog Post, ISML Blog)
- Cognitive biases affect strategic decision making (Article, Memphis Daily News)
- Foreknowledge e-Magazine Issue 6 (Online Magazine)
- Biases of Fiction (Blog Post, Overcoming Bias Blog)