Spooks Get New Workout Routine … for Their Minds

Lena Groeger

The Caveman Ughlympics, the Cat-olympics, the E’lympics — seems like everyone has caught five-ring fever. Even the U.S. intelligence community. To prepare, it’s gotten a new workout routine from a very unlikely source — social science. To bring home the gold in the “Analytical Olympics,” intelligence analysts will have to embark on training regimen unlike any other. All in their head.

The mental workout routine was outlined in a recent report by the National Research Council, which suggests practical ways to apply insights from the behavioral and social sciences to the intelligence community. This isn’t the first time the government has looked to social science for advice – the controversial Human Terrain System project embeds researchers into combat units to improve understanding of local circumstances and cultural traditions. This report is a little different. Instead of sending social scientists overseas, it uses their expertise to consider the “critical problems of individual and group judgment” among analysts at home.

So what exactly are these problems, and how can social science help solve them?

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