Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has introduced an innovative computer-supported methodology for profiling the personality of political leaders.
Prof. Yair Neuman and Prof. Golan Shahar of the department of psychology along with programmer Yochai Cohen developed the methodology to be published in a paper in the American Intelligence Journal.
This new tool aims to allow for a better understanding of the mindsets of political leaders as well as for rationally and psychologically managing their policies.
In the paper, the methodology is illustrated through a speech given by then-Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to the UN General Assembly and exposes the hidden layers and deeper meanings in the speech.
Neuman also demonstrated this methodology in the context of the current conflict with Hamas through profiling the movement’s leader Khaled Mashaal.
“If we characterize Mashaal as someone with a psychopathic personality, then we would expect him to feel omnipotent, fearless, to perceive others (particularly Israel) as weak and vulnerable, and that his relationships revolve around games of ‘predator-prey,’” Neuman explained on Monday.
A man like Mashaal would not be “significantly affected” by injury to innocent citizens or the destruction of infrastructure, because he lacks the ability to empathize, according to the professor.
“He will manipulate and defraud in the pursuit of his own personal interest. In this case, any attempt to simulate empathy, or to try and appeal to his emotions, is a strategy doomed to fail. These insights are highly important in understanding the personality and in planning a campaign against it,” said Neuman.
Personality profiling is not new and has been used throughout history by psychologists and military strategists in an attempt to understand the enemy and defeat it.
“The CIA built a personality profile of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein which explained to the Bush administration that what they attributed to a lack of rationality actually derived from the Middle Eastern rationale of ‘showing off,” Neuman said.
“In other words, so long as the leader is not defeated once and for all or publicly humiliated, the entire struggle with the US, even if it comes at a catastrophic price to his fighters and citizens, will be perceived as a victory and a symbol of masculinity,” he said.
This lesson applies to the current struggle against Hamas and Mashaal, Neuman said.