Risk Analysis

Behavioral Modeling of Adversaries with Multiple Objectives in Counterterrorism

Journal Article


Attacker/defender models have primarily assumed that each decisionmaker optimizes the cost of the damage inflicted and its economic repercussions from their own perspective. Two streams of recent research have sought to extend such models. One stream suggests that it is more realistic to consider attackers with multiple objectives, but this research has not included the adaption of the terrorist with multiple objectives to defender actions. The other stream builds off experimental studies that show that decisionmakers deviate from optimal rational behavior. In this article, we extend attacker/defender models to incorporate multiple objectives that a terrorist might consider in planning an attack. This includes the tradeoffs that a terrorist might consider and their adaption to defender actions. However, we must also consider experimental evidence of deviations from the rationality assumed in the commonly used expected utility model in determining such adaption. Thus, we model the attacker's behavior using multiattribute prospect theory to account for the attacker's multiple objectives and deviations from rationality. We evaluate our approach by considering an attacker with multiple objectives who wishes to smuggle radioactive material into the United States and a defender who has the option to implement a screening process to hinder the attacker. We discuss the problems with implementing such an approach, but argue that research in this area must continue to avoid misrepresenting terrorist behavior in determining optimal defensive actions.

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