This is the ability to develop explanations from different perspectives for the same information. An important component of this ability is to set aside one’s own inclinations, values, beliefs, expectations, and preferences so as to develop explanations that cover the full range of possibilities. Some aspects of this skill have been called divergent thinking— generating different ideas about a topic from available information or knowledge. But while divergent thinking is characterized by spontaneous, free-flowing, unorganized idea generation, this skill requires the development of explanations from the deliberate consideration of a set of premises that have been systematically derived from available information.

Intelligence analysis relies on the development of alternative competing hypotheses. After a set of premises has been derived from information determined to be relevant and valid, alternative hypotheses are developed that define the full range of possible explanations for the information. This process requires the critical thinking skill of considering alternative perspectives. The resulting alternative hypotheses, then, serve to guide collection of the additional information needed to formulate a useful inference.


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