In this week’s blog, Research Analyst, Justin Greger, discusses how the consideration of personal and cultural values add context and break down assumptions when analyzing patterns within data.
Decisions are not made by machines. Everyone makes decisions and all decisions are ultimately made by individuals. When people make decisions, they intuitively weigh pros and cons and then make a choice by what they think is the best option at the moment. Often, this follows conventional rationale, like choosing not to run a red light in order to gain an extra 30 seconds at the intersection because survival is more important. However, not everyone holds the same values. Everyone has preferences, priorities, and particulars, all of which are influenced by the world around us.
The Individual and the Social
The environment shapes these values. As human beings live and grow they assign meaning and value to the things, ideas, and people in their lives. To differentiate these values, consider two categories: individual values and cultural values. Individual values are the meanings assigned to things and are usually material, such as people, while cultural values are abstract and give meaning to larger concepts. Individual values are more easily understood because they are easier to relate to, or at the very least, pathologize them into understandable models of behavior. It makes sense that someone else cares about their kids, because you likely care for your kids. It is harder to understand other cultural values because they are further removed from the personal experiences that you have and thus your assumptions.
The Dichotomy of Man
Where things start to get a little more complicated is how cultural values affect personal values. Cultural values tend to be the foundation of how people view the world and what people build our personal values on. When people are unfamiliar with a subject, they fall back on their cultural values to interpret and establish a preliminary individual value. These assumptions and expectations are considered as well as basic observations to create a first impression. This relationship between cultural and individual values in turn also provides means to understand other cultures by working backwards from the more relatable individual values and how they manifest in comparison.
Assumptions and Actuality
Personal and cultural values can drastically differ geographically, therefore awareness of regional differences remains an important consideration. Knowledge of various trends, traditions, and beliefs within a given city, county, etc. provide the necessary meaning to assess what is normal behavior. In Washington, there is a phenomenon known as “The Seattle Freeze”. In short, it is a belief that the city’s social environment is infamously harsh towards outsiders. On the surface, disconnection from one’s peers might appear as an indicator of concerning behavior. However, with recognition of this social pattern, analysts add a layer of consideration into what differentiates an actual risk versus an explained tendency of this population.
The consideration of personal and cultural values explicit to certain populations applies to a multitude of mission-sets. An example of effective application of these concepts in analytics is the Company’s efforts in anti-fraud against those who would exploit the CARES Act’s policies. In September 2021, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency brought on Praescient Analytics to support the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. The vast amounts of financial data yielded by participating businesses make detecting fraud cases difficult, which is why utilizing a bottom up approach has been so useful. The Fraud Triangle and Diamond Theory explore both the individual and cultural values that separate those who commit fraud from those who do not; perceived pressure being the material conditions that push them towards fraud (a shift in individual values) and the rationalization (a shift in cultural values) that allows them to justify committing fraud.
From Praescient’s contracts to its robust internship program, holistic analysis augmented by the latest technology is the key to our process and our edge. As the Summer 2022 Intelligence Cell cohort moves into their OSINT projects and completes PMESII/ASCOPE preliminary assessments, it will be crucial to keep these lessons in mind.