When dealing with the future, we use a language that includes specific notions such as the expression of probability and of impacts. In terms of probability, for example, we use words such as “likely” and for impacts terms such as “severe”. Furthermore, to be truly complete, we should add a confidence judgement.

As explained by Heuer in the case of probability, these are expressions of subjective judgements. As a result, these words are a source of “ambiguity and misunderstanding” (Richards J. Jr. Heuer, , Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999: 152).

Our members and trainees can download below a “cheat sheet” of these words with their explanations. For probability we provide the correspondence between subjective words and numerical probability.

Click on the image or link to download

Coverpage image: Peter Lomas via Pixabay [Public Domain]


About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues. Her current focus is on Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Science, and Security. She teaches at Master level at SciencesPo-PSIA.

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