Monday, March 24, 2008

What Do Words Of Estimative Probability Mean? (Final Version With Abstract)


The value of Word of Estimative Probability (WEPs) is, of course, an ongoing question both within the intelligence community and among its critics. At one end of the spectrum are those, who call for numeric estimates. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that it doesn’t matter what an analyst says, policymakers and others will interpret the analysis however they wish. The intelligence community (IC) has recently moved further in the direction of a position that that is clearly on more formal side of the spectrum as the “best practice” for effectively communicating the results of intelligence analysis to decisionmakers. Much of the reason for using WEPs instead of numbers centers around the imprecise nature of intelligence analysis in general, coupled with the misunderstandings that could arise in the minds of decisionmakers if analysts used numbers to communicate their estimative judgments. A large part of the argument against WEPs, on the other hand, has to do with the imprecise meaning of the words themselves. In other words, what exactly does ‘likely” mean? Exploring these ideas and how best to teach them to Intelligence Studies students is the purpose of this article.

PDF Version (Pre-pub/Complete)

HTML Version:
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- To Kent And Beyond
Part 3 -- The Exercise And Its Learning Objectives
Part 4 -- Teaching Points
Part 5 -- A Surprise Ending

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