Strategic adversaries and competitors of the United States have come to view influence operations as an effective, low-cost, and low consequence (for the influencer) means of advancing their goals and agendas. Given our adversaries and competitors’ view of influence operations, and the immense implications and potential consequences of them, there is a need for research that will advance the state of the art in detecting, characterizing, and countering state-sponsored influence operations. While there is a large volume of work that has been done to understand the nature and effects of influence operations, as well as exploring various methods to counter them, there is a dearth of work that examines how one can measure the impact and effectiveness of influence operations. The Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division (UWT) of START is developing the “Influence to Action Escalation Model” (IAEM) and the “Influence to Action Chain Template” (I-ACT) to anticipate and measure to measure the impact of influence operations by determining an influence operation's likelihood to galvanize the recipients to exhibit outwardly observable behaviors. The model will be the first step in providing the U.S. intelligence, military, and other government stakeholders a new capability to systematically measure the relative impact and effectiveness of influence operations being conducted against the United States. When fully matured, this capability will allow the United States to prepare for, counter, and neutralize nefarious foreign influence operations more effectively.
The research team has completed its investigation into cognitive dissonance, choice certainty, signal detection, and dual-process theories associated with influence impact, resulting in the development of the IAEM prototype. The team has begun validating its prototype model by testing it against a set of historical cases. Once the initial model has been validated, the research team will design and field a survey to collect data on how the general U.S. population responds to misinformation and disinformation within the context of the variables and behaviors contained in IAEM and I-ACT. The research team will utilize the survey results to assign appropriate weights to the variables contained in the IAEM, which will allow the group to develop an operational IAEM that is ready to undergo further verification and validation.