Remembering CIA Psychologist Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15 1927 – August 21 2018) [COVID-19 & The Analysis of Competing Hypotheses]

“Do You Really Need More Information? The US Intelligence Community invests heavily in improved intelligence collection systems while managers of analysis lament the comparatively small sums devoted to enhancing analytical resources, improving analytical methods, or gaining better understanding of the cognitive processes involved in making analytical judgments.”

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis

Richards J. Heuer

August 21 2022 — Former CIA veteran Richards “Dick” J. Heuer died on August 21st at Carmel Valley Manor. Dick was recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency during its early years. Throughout his career he worked in numerous areas of the intelligence field. He was the recipient of multiple honors from the Central Intelligence agency, the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts and the International Association for Intelligence Education. Follow us on Twitter:@INTEL_TODAY

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“Dick influenced analysis at the CIA more than any other single person.”

Former CIA Director Michael Morell

Dick was born in Philadelphia to Richards J Heuer, Sr. and Marion Dapp Heuer. After a brief stint as a draftee in the army, Dick attended Williams College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

Heuer went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley where he met his future wife Feesie Farnsworth, the start of 61 years of devoted married life. Later in life he went on to complete his graduate studies obtaining a Masters in International Relations from the University of Southern California.

He was most known for his work on analysis of competing hypotheses and his groundbreaking book, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, continues to be a staple in intelligence programs nearly 20 years after its publication by CIA; one of the most frequently cited examples of applied psychology in the literature.

Throughout his career, he has worked in collection operations, counterintelligence, intelligence analysis and personnel security. In 2010 he co-authored a book with Randolph (Randy) H. Pherson titled Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis.

Richards Heuer is well-known for his analysis of the extremely controversial and disruptive case of Soviet KGB defector Yuri Nosenko, who was first judged to be part of a “master plot” for penetration of CIA but was later officially accepted as a legitimate defector. [Wikipedia]

“Analysis of competing hypotheses (ACH) is an analytic process that identifies a complete set of alternative hypotheses, systematically evaluates data that is consistent and inconsistent with each hypothesis, and rejects hypotheses that contain too much inconsistent data.”

Analysis of competing hypotheses

Heuer’s work on analysis of competing hypotheses [ACH] provides a methodology for overcoming intelligence biases.

ACH is an eight step process to enhance analysis:

1 — Identify all possible hypotheses

2 — Make a list of significant evidence and arguments

3 — Prepare a matrix to analyze the “diagnosticity” of evidence

4 — Drawn tentative conclusions

5 — Refine the matrix

6 — Compare your personal conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis with the inconsistency scores

7 — Report your conclusions

8 — Identify indicators

Heuer originally developed ACH to be included as the core element in an inter-agency deception analysis course during the Reagan administration in 1984 concentrated on Soviet deception regarding arms deals.

Confidence & Accuracy vs Information — In one of his experiments, experienced horse-race handicappers were shown a long list of variables that included data related to the recent performances of the horses, the weight of the jockeys, the time since the last race, the weather conditions, etc… The result of this particular experiment is abundantly clear. On one hand the accuracy of the prediction did not improve with additional information. On the other hand, their confidence in the accuracy of their predictions increased significantly as they were provided with more information.

In late May 2021, President Biden tasked the US Intelligence Community to determine whether the COVID-19 virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal (Hypothesis 1) or from a laboratory accident (Hypothesis 2).

Biden’s 90-day review period will conclude on August 26, 2021. The President stated that a non classified version of the IC report will be released.

RELATED POST: The Origin of Covid-19 — The Definitive Conclusion of the U.S. Intelligence Community 90-days Investigation (August 24 2021) [UPDATE — Classified Report in Review Process. What’s the Conclusion?]

I would like to make a small but very important point. The two hypotheses do not constitute a complete set of alternative hypotheses.

For instance, a natural origin does not rule out a laboratory accident. Moreover, a Wuhan scientist collecting bat samples for research purposes could very well be the patient zero.

And then, there is worse, much worse. Based on the result on his experiments, Heuer came up with a clear recommendation to intelligence analysts.

What new information would have the biggest impact on your current analysis. What new information would be needed to change your mind?

Allow me to repeat a small point. On May 15 2021, I reminded you that:

“The intermediary host species of SAR-COV-S1 was identified within four months of the epidemic’s outbreak, and the host of MERS within nine months. But 16 months after the outbreak of this pandemic, neither the original bat population, nor the intermediate species to which SARS-COV-2 might have jumped, has been identified.”

And to this day, this statement remains true. That link — if it exists — is still unknown… The source of introduction into humans remains unknown to this day.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Yet, this is becoming a serious issue for the proponents of the natural origin hypothesis.

Amazingly, the CIA-ODNI report does not say a word about this issue… Dr. Heuer must be turning over in his grave. The CIA learned absolutely nothing from his work…

“The scientist seeks to disprove a hypothesis, not to confirm it. A hypothesis is accepted only when it cannot be rejected.”

Richards J. Heuer Jr.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis


Psychology of Intelligence Analysis — Richards J. Heuer Jr — Chapter V –  Do You Really Need More Information?

Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. — The Monterey Herald (Sept. 2, 2018)


OBITUARY — Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15, 1927 – august 21, 2018)

Remembering CIA Psychologist Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15 1927 – August 21 2018) [COVID-19 & The Analysis of competing hypotheses]

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1 Response to Remembering CIA Psychologist Richards “Dick” J. Heuer, Jr. (July 15 1927 – August 21 2018) [COVID-19 & The Analysis of Competing Hypotheses]

  1. That accuracy graph!

    Has it been circumcised?

    Lab accident or invisible forces?


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