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In the opponent’s shoes: modelling dynamic preferences of malicious agents

Sri Bhashyam, Sumitra (2014) In the opponent’s shoes: modelling dynamic preferences of malicious agents. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Given the increasing concerns over insecurity caused by terrorism, and the difficulty in quantifying the risk of crime or violent outbreaks in general, several experts have highlighted the importance of understanding the objectives and motivations of terrorists. If one could infer their preferences, it would be possible to understand better their possible nefarious actions in order to guide efforts towards proper counter-terrorism measures. Indeed, one way to anticipate terrorists’ actions in counter-terrorism analysis is to consider their judgments when modelling the decisions they might make. Such judgments will drive their chosen actions. Current efforts in modelling terrorist decision making make several assumptions such as rationality of the agents, agents who have a set of constant and ordered preferences, with the ability to perform a cost benefit analysis of their alternatives, among others. However, are such assumptions reasonable? This research seeks to analyse the types of assumptions made across various models for counter-terrorism analysis that represent the agents’ judgments and discuss their suitability from a descriptive point of view by drawing knowledge from the fields of behavioural decision analysis, politics, philosophy of choice, public choice and conflict management in terrorism. This research then explores the modelling implications resulting from this insight and provides some recommendations as to how some of these assumptions could be modified in order to describe terrorists’ preferences more accurately. An empirical research is also carried out, to analyse the effect of anger on the prioritisation of objectives, and to confirm the findings drawn from secondary research. Subsequently, we present a way of addressing some of the areas highlighted in the critical analysis. We suggest modelling state-dependent judgements of a terrorist organisation - making the assumption it behaves as an individual via a multi-attribute utility model that incorporates state-dependent priorities to account for preference change caused by exogenous triggers and representing the environment as a system dynamics model.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Sumitra Sri Bhashyam
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Montibeller, Gilberto

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