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Strategic Deception and Counterdeception: A Cognitive Process Approach

Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
International Studies Quarterly
Vol. 25, No. 2, Symposium in Honor of Hans J. Morgenthau (Jun., 1981), pp. 294-327
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The International Studies Association
DOI: 10.2307/2600359
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2600359
Page Count: 34
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Strategic Deception and Counterdeception: A Cognitive Process Approach
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Abstract

Research in experimental psychology is applied to an analysis of problems of strategic military deception and counterdeception. In conducting deception, the deceiver has a clear advantage; empirical evidence confirms assumptions drawn from cognitive psychology that deception seldom fails when it exploits a target's preconceptions. The target's tendency to assimilate discrepant information to existing mental sets generally negates the risks to deception posed by security leaks and uncontrolled channels of information. Cognitive biases in the assessment of probabilities, evaluation of evidence, and attribution of causality are described and related to questions of deception and counterdeception. Approaches to enhancing an organization's ability to detect deception are examined. Improved intelligence collection and heightened alertness to deception are often insufficient. Cognitive aids to facilitate analysis are recommended, as is the formation of a counterdeception staff as a focal point for deception analysis.

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