Recent military and homeland security events have made public officials, the media, and the public skeptical of the conclusions produced by intelligence analysts. Expert panels investigating the causes of intelligence failures sometimes list biases in judgment and decision making during analysis as a contributing factor. Experimental findings from cognitive and social psychology and decision science are typically cited to make this inference.
Decision making or analytic biases may indeed influence intelligence products, but findings from the bias literature may be over-generalized. Given that individuals can easily be biased, are flawed thinking and judgments inevitable? Conversely, can analysts be trained to understand and detect their biases, and use that knowledge in applying heuristics capable of counteracting biases, to minimize mistakes in judgment?
This paper addresses training approaches that can influence the mental processes that decision makers follow during the intelligence-producing task. After a brief literature review of decision making bias, analytic methods are described and training interventions outlined that might mitigate biases in real-world analytic situations. Finally, the training approaches that have influenced development of leadership training are described where, again, awareness of potential biased reasoning is necessary for decision makers engaged in critical warfighting tasks.