Analysts are subject to the same biases, expectations, mindsets and oversimplifications that affect the thinking of all humans. While these negative influences might have limited impact on the lives that most of us live, they can be devastating to the work of the intelligence analyst. Consequently, analysts must develop the ability to understand and recognize the possible effects of these influences and to develop skills to keep them from distorting the products of analysis.
This skill involves the ability to continuously reevaluate one’s view of the situation for these types of negative influences and to take the appropriate steps to eliminate them from the analysis. Although the types of influences addressed in this skill can enter the intelligence analysis process anywhere along the line, the primary concern is their role in hypothesis development and testing. Prior to this point, the tests for relevancy and validity should help assure the analyst that cognitive biases have had only a limited opportunity to enter the process. Now, as the analyst moves from strictly factual information to using conjecture in developing the most encompassing and useful hypotheses possible, these opportunities for distortion can operate most freely.