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The Behavioral Sciences in U.S. National Security and Public Safety


The goal of the course is to provide students with an overview of basic psychological concepts as they apply to key areas of national security and statecraft. The course will highlight some of the areas in which behavioral scientists contribute to U.S. national security and public safety. This will add a unique dimension to the student’s ability to analyze human attitudes and behavior in the national security arena.

The course begins with a historical overview of the involvement of the behavioral sciences in U.S. national security and public safety.

Students will then examine political psychology, the psychological understanding of political behavior. Political behavior at its core can be understood as the product of psychological variables interacting with one’s political environment. Understanding psychological factors that mediate destructive political behaviors such as the various forms of political violence (e.g. terrorism) is a key area of national security and statecraft analysis. Furthermore, a psychologically informed analysis of political behavior may help manage international conflict.

The course will then cover operational psychology, the application of psychological expertise to military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement operations. The course will review specific subdisciplines including terrorism and radicalization, counterterrorism and de-radicalization, the indirect assessment of foreign leaders, the psychology of intelligence and counterintelligence, the psychology of persuasion and coercion, neuro-technology and cognitive warfare, and the psychology of negotiation and international conflict resolution.


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