Modeling Terrorist Beliefs and Motivations

Principal Investigator: 
Performance Period: 
October 2008 to September 2012
Commercialization Status: 
The objective of this research is to further develop our pioneering approach to adversary threat assessment through the construction of random utility models of terrorist preferences.  This work builds on previous research efforts (Rosoff, 2009; Rosoff & John, 2009) that have used decision analysis models and elicitation methods to:  (1) construct of a value tree for a terrorist leader or organization using value focused thinking (VFT), (2) construct a random multi-attribute utility model (RMAUM) capturing trade-offs among conflicting objectives and single-attribute utility functions representing risk attitudes of terrorist leaders, (3) construct probability distributions capturing key uncertainties for terrorist leaders (e.g., attack success) and uncertainties in the utility function parameters provided by adversary experts.  Understanding the objectives and motivations that drive terrorist group behavior is critical.  Current methods for terrorism risk assessment focus on target vulnerability, terrorist capability and resources, and attack consequence. What many researchers have yet to consider is the influence of terrorist group values and beliefs in deciphering the root cause of their militant behavior.  This understanding has the potential to contribute to probabilistic estimates of terrorist threats.    During Year 8 we further developed the adversary preference modeling (APM) methodology by (1) continuing to validate the APM through a case study with political/social/advocacy groups – the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Sea Shepherd) with an action oriented agenda that is driven by specific motives, values, and objectives, and (2) beginning the development and use of a System Dynamics Simulation Model to further examine the structure of the terrorist groups’ organizational system, the interactions among its components, and how change in one area, for instance in the form of a defender countermeasure, affects the whole system and its parts over time.