Cognitive Battlefield - Part I: A Framework for Assessing Optimal Engagement Strategies

The amount and pace of verbal and written information that people exchange every day has increased dramatically over the past decade. A major question of our time is how does this information influence people’s attitudes, behaviours and decision-making?

Our three-part Cognitive Battlefield series explores this issue in more detail, with this paper (part I) presenting a framework for understanding how people make evaluations and decisions - based on the multi-attribute model.

The multi-attribute model is an established framework that uses people’s priorities to evaluate the favourability of an actor (e.g., a political candidate) or an object (e.g., Coca-Cola). The results are invaluable for determining:

  1. Optimal communication strategies
  2. Whether actors are behaving in optimal ways (or not)
  3. How possible scenarios may unfold

The idea behind the multi-attribute model is that when people are making decisions, they don’t just judge each choice in and of itself. Instead, people consider multiple factors, or attributes, when developing an overall opinion or decision. For example, when choosing a political candidate, the attributes under consideration may include key socio-political issues, such as the economy or family values. A person’s ultimate decision depends on how important the different attributes are to them and how the choices stack up against each other on these attributes. Understanding this decision-making process is essential for determining the most optimal engagement strategies.

As well as providing an overview into how people make evaluations and decisions, this paper looks at the theoretical basis of the multi-attribute model and presents a case study of former Brazilian President Lula – showcasing how the model can be applied to electoral outcomes.