Government official briefs SRA students on deception

March 27, 2009

The mind can trick itself into believing almost anything without an established sense of critical thinking, a government official told Security and Risk Analysis students during a recent visit to the College of IST.

William A. Parquette, chair of the education subcommittee of the U.S. Foreign Denial and Deception Committee, gave a presentation on “Psychology of Deception: Barriers to Critical Thinking and the Search for the Truth” to students in Will McGill and Isaac Brewer’s SRA 231 and 311 classes.

Parquette began the presentation with an overview of the how the brain tricks itself and falls victim to deception techniques used by others. To demonstrate this, he asked if anyone was involved in an ROTC program, told a story about a friend in the U.S. military, and then asked the group to name types of ships — to which they responded “battleship” and other sailing vessels.

However, Parquette was actually looking for answers like “friendship” and “relationship” — showing how his ROTC question and military story were really an act of deception designed to get their brains thinking in one specific way.

“Manipulation can be internally imposed or externally inspired and designed,” he said. “Everyone brings different biases to the table, and it’s important to recognize what yours are so you can be more aware of how you might fall victim to acts of deception.”

Parquette also challenged the students to always question their sources of information in an effort to recognize deception and employ counterdeception techniques.

“Develop a prepared mind and have a healthy skepticism,” he said. “Look at the big picture if you can — ask some questions, be a skeptic, be curious.”

These ideals represent a major goal of the SRA program, McGill said.

“One goal of security risk analysis is to counter these deceptive efforts with critical thinking, solid tradecraft and healthy skepticism. These are the capabilities we strive to develop in our SRA students,” he said. “All decision makers, whether in business or government, must consider how their opponents employ deception as a means to obtain a competitive advantage.”

"The intelligence community is particularly interested in cultivating counterdeception capabilities throughout their analytic workforce. In SRA we are trying to equip our graduates with such skills before they report for duty.”

Last Updated April 02, 2009