Psychology of Intelligence Analysis


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by Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
CENTER for the STUDY of INTELLIGENCE Central Intelligence Agency 1999

This book was prepared primarily for the use of US Government officials, and the format, coverage, and content were designed to meet their specific requirements.
Because this book is now out of print, this Portable Document File (PDF) is formatted for two-sided printing to facilitate desktop publishing. It may be used by US Government agencies to make copies for government purposes and by non-governmental organizations to make copies for educational purposes. Because this book may be subject to copyright restriction, copies may not be made for any commercial purpose.
This book will be available at www.odci.gov/csi.
All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in the main text of this book are those of the author. Similarly, all such statements in the Forward and the Introduction are those of the respective authors of those sections. Such statements of fact, opinion, or analysis do not necessarily reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other component of the US Intelligence Community. Nothing in the contents of this book should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of factual statements or interpretations.
ISBN 1 929667-00-0
Originally published in 1999.
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Psychology of Intelligence Analysis
by Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
Author’s Preface.....................................................vi Foreword...............................................................ix Introduction........................................................xiii PART I—OUR MENTAL MACHINERY...............1
Chapter 1: Thinking About Thinking............................1 Chapter 2: Perception: Why Can’t We See What Is There To Be Seen?............................................7 Chapter 3: Memory: How Do We Remember What We Know?.........................................................17
PART II—TOOLS FOR THINKING...................31
Chapter 4: Strategies for Analytical Judgment: Transcending the Limits of Incomplete Information....31 Chapter 5: Do You Really Need More Information?....51 Chapter 6: Keeping an Open Mind.............................65 Chapter 7: Structuring Analytical Problems.................85 Chapter 8: Analysis of Competing Hypotheses............95
PART III—COGNITIVE BIASES......................111
Chapter 9: What Are Cognitive Biases?.....................111 Chapter 10: Biases in Evaluation of Evidence............115


Chapter 11: Biases in Perception of Cause and Effect 127 Chapter 12: Biases in Estimating Probabilities...........147 Chapter 13: Hindsight Biases in Evaluation of Intelligence Reporting...............................................161
PART IV—CONCLUSIONS..............................173
Chapter 14: Improving Intelligence Analysis.............173
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Author’s Preface
This volume pulls together and republishes, with some editing, updating, and additions, articles written during 1978–86 for internal use within the CIA Directorate of Intelligence. Four of the articles also appeared in the Intelligence Community journal Studies in Intelligence during that time frame. The information is relatively timeless and still relevant to the never-ending quest for better analysis.
The articles are based on reviewing cognitive psychology literature concerning how people process information to make judgments on incomplete and ambiguous information. I selected the experiments and findings that seem most relevant to intelligence analysis and most in need of communication to intelligence analysts. I then translated the technical reports into language that intelligence analysts can understand and interpreted the relevance of these findings to the problems intelligence analysts face.
The result is a compromise that may not be wholly satisfactory to either research psychologists or intelligence analysts. Cognitive psychologists and decision analysts may complain of oversimplification, while the non-psychologist reader may have to absorb some new terminology. Unfortunately, mental processes are so complex that discussion of them does require some specialized vocabulary. Intelligence analysts who have read and thought seriously about the nature of their craft should have no difficulty with this book. Those who are plowing virgin ground may require serious effort.
I wish to thank all those who contributed comments and suggestions on the draft of this book: Jack Davis (who also wrote the Introduction); four former Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analysts whose names cannot be cited here; my current colleague, Prof. Theodore Sarbin; and my editor at the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, Hank Appelbaum. All made many substantive and editorial suggestions that helped greatly to make this a better book.
—Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
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Psychology of Intelligence Analysis