With modern warfare moving more and more to the virtual and cognitive domains, NATO finds itself in an operational environment in which information plays a more important role compared to the past. Since both state and non-state actors now have more opportunities to implement information-based influencing (IBI) operations in targeting the military and civilian populations of NATO member states, NATO recently revised its main doctrine, the Allied Joint Doctrine so that it now centres around influencing human behaviour. Apart from raising questions how this should be done, it also underlines the need to better understand the target audience (TA).
This paper by Yannick Smits (Leiden University and American University of Armenia) addresses two puzzles that stand central to this undertaking. These are, first, how to increase the success-potential of information-based behavioural influencing operations before these operations are implemented and, second, how to better measure the effects of these operations in the post-campaign phase. Without devaluing the psychological and sociological methods that NATO predominantly uses to better understand a TA, this paper assumes a discursive analytical approach to address this twofold puzzle. This is because while the former methods are useful in explaining why a TA will (not) be inclined to show the desired behaviour, they are not concerned with understanding how this behaviour makes no sense in view of how the TA constructs its own identity and, by implication, that of others. Elaborating on, first, how identity and behaviour are entwined on an ontological level, this paper then discusses how one can analyse a TA’s discourses to better understand this identity-behaviour nexus. Presuming that understanding how people are inclined to act depends upon understanding how they talk about themselves and Others, it therefore argues that interpreting how a TA discursively constructs its identity-behaviour nexus increases NATO’s insight into a TA’s receptivity to IBI before and after its application.
The military application of information has a long history in influencing the outcome of war and conflict on the battlefield. Be it by deceiving the opponent, maintaining troop confidence, or shaping public opinion. These tactics are placed under the banner of influencing human behaviour. Behavioural influencing is the act of meaningfully trying to affect the behaviour of an individual by targeting people’s knowledge, beliefs and emotions. Within the Dutch armed forces these tactics fall under title of Information Manoeuvre. With the ever-larger and more evasive employment of information-based capabilities to target human cognition, the boundaries of the physical and cognitive battlefield have begun to fade.
For this paper series scholars, experts and policymakers submitted their papers on the employment of information-related capabilities to influence human behaviour in the military context. From the perspective of an individual European or NATO country’s perspective.
The Information-based behavioural influencing and Western practice paper series is edited by Arthur Laudrain, Laura Jasper and Michel Rademaker.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this paper are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or opinion of HCSS.