Flexible versus structured support for reasoning: enhancing analytical reasoning through a flexible analytic technique

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Patricia Rossini, Kate Kenski, Brian McKernan, Benjamin Clegg, James Folkestad, Carsten Østerlund, Lael Schooler, Olga Boichak, Jordan Canzonetta, Rosa Mikeal Martey, Corey Pavlich, Eric Tsetsi, Nancy McCracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Structured analytic techniques (SATs) help the intelligence community reduce flaws in cognition that lead to faulty reasoning. To ascertain whether SATs provide benefits to reasoning we conducted an experiment within a web-based application, comparing three conditions: 1) unaided reasoning, 2) a prototypical order-based SAT and 3) a flexible, process-based SAT that we call TRACE. Our findings suggest that the more flexible SAT generated higher quality reasoning compared to the other conditions. Consequently, techniques and training that support flexible analytical processes rather than those that require a set sequence of steps may be more beneficial to intelligence analysis and complex reasoning.  Keywords: structured analytical techniques, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, tradecraft, cognitive biases, experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIntelligence and National Security
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations

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