The Three N Approach to Strategies for United States Government Information Operations

May 2021 No Comments

Author(s): Kaltenthaler, K. (University of Akron/Case Western Reserve); Kruglanski, A. (University of Maryland)

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This paper seeks to answer the following question: What can we learn from the process of
radicalization into extremism that can be applied to information operations to make them more
successful? We contend that the 3 N model of radicalization applies more generally to the
process whereby information is absorbed and is having impact. This process assumes that
information absorption and impact are driven by motivation—that is, human needs. The 3 Ns
refer to needs, narratives, and networks, which together help us understand why some
individuals become radicalized. Radicalization, the internalization of an extremist narrative, is
driven by exposure to an extremist narrative validated by a social network of trusted others
who—through the narrative—provide a means to satisfy the crucial human need for
significance. The need for significance refers to the innate human desire to feel that one
matters, that one is respected, and that one has dignity. The US government has paid major
attention in information operations to the role played by social networks and narratives. We
recommend an additional focus in information operations on the needs that drive human
cognition and behavior, primarily the need for significance, which is the preeminent social need.

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