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Aug. 10, 2014



The ability to understand the minds of political leaders is an important aspect of strategic intelligence. In this context, personality profiling is a common practice that has traditionally relied on the expertise and intuition of human psychologists.  

In a paper to be published in the American Intelligence Journal, Prof. Yair Neuman of the Department of Education, Prof. Golan Shahar of the Department of Psychology and programmer Yochai Cohen of BGU, introduce a novel computer-supported methodology for personality profiling.  This methodology can help stakeholders to better understand strategic competitors and allies for both rationally and psychologically managing their policy.  

For example, the current conflict with Hamas is being conducted against a small number of leaders, such as Khaled Mashal. “If we characterize Mashal as someone with a psychopathic personality, then we would expect him to feel omnipotent, fearless, to perceive others (particularly Israel) as weak and vulnerable, and that his relationships revolve around games of ‘predator-prey.’ A man like that won’t be significantly affected by injury to innocent citizens or the destruction of infrastructure because he lacks the ability to empathize. He will manipulate and defraud in the pursuit of his own personal interest. In this case, any attempt to simulate empathy, or to try and appeal to his emotions is a strategy doomed to fail. These insights are highly important in understanding the personality and planning a campaign against it,” says Neuman.   

The ability to understand one’s enemy is an important card in any battle. Psychologists have been building personality profiles of leaders for years. 

“The CIA built a personality profile of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein which explained to the Bush Administration that what they attributed to a lack of rationality actually derived from the Middle Eastern rationale of ‘showing off’. In other words, so long as the leader is not defeated once and for all or publicly humiliated, the entire struggle with the US, even if it comes at a catastrophic price to his fighters and citizens, will be perceived as a victory and a symbol of masculinity. This conclusion offers a clear lesson for the current struggle against Hamas as well,” according to Neuman.  

The methodology is illustrated in the article through the speech given by former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi to the UN assembly and exposes hidden and deep layers in the speech.