In the opponent's shoes: increasing the behavioral validity of attackers' judgments in counterterrorism models

2016-06-10T13:53:22Z (GMT) by Sumitra S. Bhashyam Gilberto Montibeller
A key objective for policymakers and analysts dealing with terrorist threats is trying to predict the actions that malicious agents may take. A recent trend in counterterrorism risk analysis is to model the terrorists' judgments, as these will guide their choices of such actions. The standard assumptions in most of these models are that terrorists are fully rational, following all the normative desiderata required for rational choices, such as having a set of constant and ordered preferences, being able to perform a cost-benefit analysis of their alternatives, among many others. However, are such assumptions reasonable from a behavioral perspective? In this article, we analyze the types of assumptions made across various counterterrorism analytical models that represent malicious agents' judgments and discuss their suitability from a descriptive point of view. We then suggest how some of these assumptions could be modified to describe terrorists' preferences more accurately, by drawing knowledge from the fields of behavioral decision research, politics, philosophy of choice, public choice, and conflict management in terrorism. Such insight, we hope, might help make the assumptions of these models more behaviorally valid for counterterrorism risk analysis.