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By Ph.D. Rob Johnston

Identifies and describes stipulations and variables that negatively impact intelligence research. Investigates analytic tradition, method, errors, and failure in the Intelligence neighborhood. makes use of an utilized anthropological method that incorporates interviews, direct and player remark, and concentration teams. features a bibliography.

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The reason for this is straightforward and something every anthropologist recognizes. It is part of the process that anthropologists reach a point where they can modify their own identity in order to gain insight into a different culture. The risk is that empathy and identity modification will induce the researcher to “go native” and produce bias in his findings. Although I may empathize with analysts personally, it is critical for theory development to avoid parroting the views, kudos, or complaints of individual analysts, who may or may not be dissatisfied with their unique professional experience.

Some researchers attribute it to social factors, a subspecies of groupthink (see Irving Janis, Groupthink). Still others ascribe it to a misapplication of heuristics, whereby an individual learns a set of rules that solves one problem and then begins using that same set of rules to try to solve other types of problems. Although the literature is extensive, Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery provides a foundation for understanding the issue. Jonathan Evans’ Bias in Human Reasoning: Causes and Consequences is still a useful and concise summary of the research related to confirmation bias.

The principal effect is the spread of the concept of “tradecraft” within the analytic community. Community members quite often used the word “tradecraft” to describe intelligence analysis during the interviews, observations, training programs, workshops, and actual analytic tasks that I performed for this study. Analysts, managers, instructors, and academic researchers employed the word “tradecraft” as a catchall for the often-idiosyncratic methods and techniques required to perform analysis. Although the intelligence literature often refers to tradecraft, the works tend to be a collection of suggestions and tips for writing and communicating with co-workers, supervisors, and consumers instead of focusing on a thorough examination of the analytic process and techniques.

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