Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma team has been awarded a $10.7 million multi-year contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory in support of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity to develop an educational video game or “serious game” to train intelligence analysts and measure their proficiency in recognizing and mitigating the cognitive biases that affect intelligence analysis.
The objective of the game is to improve accuracy of credibility assessments and mitigate cognitive biases of future intelligence analysts. The game is a learning system where players must counteract threats to American interests by using the intelligence data at hand without allowing their cognitive biases to cloud their judgment.
“It is a great tribute to the strength of our faculty that OU was awarded this competitive contract,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It provides the opportunity for the University to participate in research that can have an impact to our national security and our intelligence capability.”
Norah Dunbar, associate professor in the OU Department of Communication and the Center for Applied Social Research in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the primary investigator responsible for project oversight. Scott Wilson, associate director for Innovative Technologies at the OU K20 Center, will oversee development of the game called Intelligence Crisis: Codename MACBETH, which stands for Mitigating Analyst Cognitive Bias by Eliminating Task Heuristics.
Through game play, the system will highlight the use of a bias, such as confirmation bias, then provide the player with information on and opportunities to practice bias mitigation techniques based on the theoretical model, the Heuristic-Systematic Model of information processing. To test the success of the OU game, the team proposed an experimental design that will test the effectiveness of the game in reducing biases.
Matthew Jensen, assistant professor of management information systems in the Michael F. Price College of Business, and Claude Miller, associate professor in the OU Department of Communication, will serve as subject matter experts during the development of the game and assist with physiological and experimental data collection and analysis.
Judee Burgoon, director of human communication research at the University of Arizona, Center for the Management of Information, helped the team develop their intelligence-related research program. Burgoon’s team in Arizona will conduct experiments for testing the MACBETH game. Researchers in Wisconsin and Michigan and intelligence experts in Washington, D.C. also are playing key roles in the project.
“The combined expertise of the team represents decades of work both on serious games and credibility analysis in the intelligence community. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring together such diverse areas of expertise into one great project,” said Dunbar.
MACBETH provides an interactive learning experience that encourages intrinsic motivation—a key element in the theoretical model—and is expected to be more effective than current methods used to mitigate cognitive biases. Additionally, the team’s previous research in cognitive bias and intelligence work gives OU a unique insight into the cognitive biases of intelligence analysts and plausible strategies to mitigate them.
The University of Oklahoma, 660 Parrington Oval, Norman, OK 73019-0390 (405) 325-0311.