air force in more detail, they continued to use their own experience as a template and thus misjudged the pace and purpose of the buildup. 74 Empathy. The obverse side of mirror-imaging is a lack of empathy. This occurs when an analyst is unable to place himself in another person’s position, and instead, “assume[s] that the other’s behavior is driven by unusual, and frequently malign, internal characteristics.” 75 Although too much empathy obviously might lead to error associated with sympathy, researchers generally assert that too little rather than too much empathy is the more common problem. Intelligence — and still more, statesmen — usually do not see others, especially adversaries, as like themselves. Furthermore, they underestimate the extent to which the other’s behavior is to be explained by the situation the other faces and correspondingly overweigh the importance of the other’s peculiar goals and beliefs. 76 This pattern of inference ascribes an adversary’s actions to goals and beliefs rather than operational realities. This creates expectations that decisions and behavior will be more consistent than will be the case, rather than allowing for creative responses to changing circumstances. 77 Assumed Rationality. Another bias occurs when we grant unwarranted rationality to decision-making and behavior. Henry Kissinger once commented that “all intelligence services congenitally overestimate the rationality of the decision-making process they are analyzing.” 78 Further complicating this problem is that people in other cultures, especially non-Western, tend to employ thought processes that appear irrational and illogical to us— but are entirely sensible in their own cultural context. Intelligence analysts, therefore, must ensure their set of competing hypotheses account for cultural context, as well as the possibility of irrationality, mistakes, and accidents. The combined effects of “squishy” data and cognitive biases, and the failure to manage their influences, may result in serious problems. One such problem is the “Cry-Wolf Syndrome.” Admiral Stark used this phrase to explain why he stopped sending Admiral Kimmel warnings about Japanese military movements. According to Admiral Stark, Admiral Kimmel and his staff grew weary of checking out reports of Japanese submarines in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor — they had checked out seven reports in the week preceding the Japanese attack, all of which were false. 79 74 Jervis, 24. 75 Jervis, 24. 76 Jervis, 24. 77 Jervis, 24. 78 Henry Kissinger, For the Record: Selected Statements, 1977-1980 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981), quoted by Helene L. Boatner, “The Evaluation of Intelligence,” Studies in Intelligence, 28, no. 2 (Summer 1984): 68. 79 Roberta Wohlstetter, “Cuba and Pearl Harbor: Hindsight and Foresight,” Foreign Affairs 43 (July 1965): 699. 58
Man is not rational, merely capable of it. Processes that Help Achieve Accuracy 59 — Jonathan Swift Processes that can help to achieve Accuracy include data verification, authentication of sources, and systematic analytical methods. Source and Data Verification. Thoughtful people normally respond to new information with several questions. The initial reaction asks “Is it true or false?” and is followed by “Is it likely, doubtful, or unlikely?” 80 These questions mark the beginning of the verification process, and the answers come from a combination of knowledge, common sense, skepticism, faith, and guesswork. 81 With the development of these facilities, people tend to handle rumor (unverified information), by doing at least one of the following: (1) they accept it because it came from a trusted source, (2) they reject it because it does not square with what they think to be likely, (3) they suspend judgment until more information comes out, or (4) they ignore the information altogether. 82 If intelligence professionals, as Sherman Kent suggested, are trained “in the techniques of guarding against their own intellectual frailties,” this training would prompt them to suspend judgment (choice 3) until more information becomes available. 83 The other choices, (1), (2), and (4), do not compel analysts to perform the deliberate and methodical actions necessary to reach conclusions that are rationally convincing, not only to themselves, but to others. 84 These actions constitute the process of verification, and hence, comprise the most important processes that support the achievement of Accuracy. The data on which a judgment or conclusion may be based, or by which probability may be established, begins with evidence: A datum becomes evidence in some analytic problem when its relevance to one or more hypotheses being considered is established. Evidence is relevant to a hypothesis if it either increases or decreases the likelihood of that hypothesis. Without hypotheses, the relevance of no datum could be established. 85 80 Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1985), 96. 81 Barzun and Graff, 96. 82 Barzun and Graff, 96. 83 Sherman Kent, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy, revised ed. (Princeton University Press, 1966), 199, as quoted by Harold P. Ford in “A Tribute to Sherman Kent,” Studies in Intelligence, 24, no. 3 (Fall 1980): 3. 84 Barzun and Graff, 99. 85 David A. Schum, Evidence and Inference for the Intelligence Analyst (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 1:16.