Reflexive Control and Cognitive Vulnerability in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Abstract:

This research seeks to uncover the mechanisms of Russian reflexivecontrol by examining its function during 2016 US presidential elections. Security analysts and US government officialhave asserted that Russia used reflexivecontrol to influencethis election; however, there is little discussion on how this technique cognitively interacted with the American public. Traditional research on reflexivecontrol assumes that the influence, ideally, possesses an understanding of its victim’s motives and tendencies before they provide tailored information to induce an expected reaction.  However, this research shows that Russia also leveraged reflexivecontrol against the American public, not through a deep understanding of its victims, but by exploiting the American public’s cognitive vulnerabilities and biases on a grand scale. Since the Russians sought a general effectof political disruption in the United States, they subsequently used a wide variety of messages against a wide target audience – or in other words, they used an “information barrage” approach. This study expands understanding of reflexivecontrol theory by: 1) adapting John Boyd’s Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) loop to show how an influencercan target a victim’s cognitive vulnerabilities, and 2) illustrating how an influencercan utilize intermediaries (i.e., social media and Wikileaks) to gain reflexive contol of a target.


AUTHORS

Professional Photo of Major Adam Yang

School of International Service American University
Washington, D.C., United States

Major Adam Yang is a Marine Corps Communications and Information Operations Officer, and currently serves as a Doctoral Fellow for the Commandant of the Marine Corps Strategist Program.  Adam is a full-time Ph.D. Student at the School of International Service at American University and his research interests include grand strategy, strategic theory, information warfare, Asian security, and alliance politics. Prior to this assignment, he served as the Information Operations Officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.  He has previously deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has conducted numerous bilateral engagements with the militaries of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, and Taiwan.  Adam is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, and holds graduate degrees from Georgetown University, the Naval Postgraduate School, and Marine Corps University.

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Keywords

C

C2
C2S
CDX
CIA
CIP
CPS

D

DNS
DoD
DoS

I

IA
ICS

S

SOA

X

XRY

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