January 26, 2014


Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 12:17 pm

visual-illusion-arrowsWhat distinguishes the motivational controls an intelligence service case officer uses to recruit and control a traitorous spy from the controls a businessman or lobbyist uses to corrupt and control a public official?

Just as with the length of the horizontal line segments in the illusion above, there may be no difference at all. 

In our OpenCdA post titled Of M.I.C.E. and Men on August 20, 2011, we briefly explained M.I.C.E., a Cold War-era mnemonic representing the behavioral controls Money, Ideology, Compromise or Coercion, and Ego used in human intelligence.

In fact though, M.I.C.E. is inadequate to explain the nuances of behavioral controls an intelligence case officer may use to recruit and control a spy or agent of influence.   It is similarly too crude to explain how to create, control, and manipulate corrupt public officials.

What the public, voters, would benefit from better understanding is that the behavioral controls used to manipulate people to become spies are just as effectively used by a car salesman to get you to buy the lemon on the lot or pay full price for that new car — or to get elected and appointed officials to happily promote projects that will enrich their “friends” while betraying the trust of those whom they were elected or appointed to represent.

There is a better framework.  It’s designer is psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini.  Dr. Cialdini refers to his framework as “weapons of mass influence.”  It’s components are  Reciprocation, Authority, Scarcity, Commitment/Consistency, Liking, and Social proof.  A convenient mnemonic,  RASCLS, was coined by Steve Kleinman.

RASCLS is a refinement of MICE.   Briefly:

Reciprocation refers to a feeling that most of us experience.  We want to repay a kindness to someone who was kind to us.  A more sinister version might be expressed as, “I want you to feel like you owe me.”

Authority is the subtle but consistent demonstration that one person exerts control over the other but without making the controlled party feel as if he is being managed.  Properly exerted, it makes the controlled party rationalize to himself that he can walk away at any time but he just doesn’t want to.

Scarcity is the art of presenting what appears to be a fleeting opportunity that is here today but may not be here tomorrow.  How many of us have been pitched by car salesmen to take that car today, because it’s in short supply and may be sold to the next person that comes in?  Imagine how much greater power the suggestion of Scarcity has on a would-be defector who wants to escape death or imprisonment and disgrace his home country — or the politician who would like to live much higher on the hog than she’s really able to.

Commitment/Consistency refers to giving the controlled party a way of rationalizing to himself that he’s being consistent, that he’s not flip-flopping, and that by helping his controller, he’s really furthering his own honorable objectives.

Liking means that the controller finds (or manufactures) similarities between himself and his cause and the controlled party and his cause.  We like people who are like us.  We seek the approval of people who are like us.

Social proof amounts to reinforced reassurance to the controlled party that his behavior (whether espionage or corruption) is right, it is noble, and it is in the best interests of those whom the controlled party is representing (betraying).

For a much more detailed comparison and discussion of MICE and RASCLS, see An Alternative Framework for Agent Recruitment:  From MICE to RASCLS, by Randy Burkett in Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2013).

The takeaway is that the exact same behavioral controls used to recruit and control a spies such as Aldrich Ames or Ana Montes are just as effective in corrupting and controlling elected and appointed officials at any level of government.

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