What Mueller’s Report Can Teach Us About Human Behaviour

Like any good prosecutor Robert Mueller lays out his evidence and then analyses what that evidence means about how people behaved. This is something that researchers also strive to do, and the framework he uses is particularly interesting and clearest in the second part of the report relating to obstruction.

His analysis framework has three parts. Firstly, he looks at the evidence relating to the “Obstructive Act”; secondly, he looks at the “Nexus to a proceeding”; and, finally, he looks at “Intent”. In terms of human behaviour these relate to the following questions:

  • What is the actual behaviour (or “job”)?
  • What is the context of the behaviour?
  • What is the underlying motivation?

In order to fully understand the truth, behaviour, context and motivation need to tell a clear, compelling and consistent story. If you want to understand human behaviour, don’t just look at the behaviour itself, but the underlying motivations and its context (including culture).

Big data will eventually be very good at knowing how people behave (“what?”). I remain unconvinced that it can properly understand context and especially human values and goals (“why?”).

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