Beyond Security: The Collective Mood and Customer Service

September 20, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective, Veterans, Business, and Security

This article was originally written for the International Security Driver Association.

I recently posted an article titled “How Security Leaders Can Influence the Mood at Venue Entrances” discussing how security leaders can improve their ability to protect event sites by creating orderly processes that people move through while entering a stadium and venue. The core lesson was that establishing corridors at entrances and helping people to feel safer and more comfortable during their entry allows for more opportunities to proactively recognize threats and prevent violence. Beyond security applications, however, the concepts have also been used by businesses looking to reduce the number customer service problems they face on any given day and can help close protection professionals communicate with event managers and owners about why to consider changing how people enter a venue.

Even though customer service might not be a close protection professional’s primary concern as they prepare for protective operations, being able to demonstrate to a venue’s management why a change to the entry processes can help to make a business more profitable can go a long way to garnering a venue’s willing participation in making those adjustments. In addition to creating the conditions that allow security professionals to successfully recognize threats, the corridor style setup can be used influence customer satisfaction during an event because it begins to lead them towards comfortable behavior from the moment they arrive. To demonstrate the difference in customer satisfaction and the level of stress present at an entryway, consider the difference in boarding processes between two competing airlines.

Example #1: The American Airlines Model

Consider an American Airlines flight boarding at Denver International Airport. While it isn’t a completely unstructured situation because there are assigned boarding groups, passengers wait in a crowd just beyond the ticket scanner for their boarding group to be called because there is no further order established within each of those groups. The result of this process is a semicircle setup where you have a crowd of people all trying to get as close as they can to the gate attendant so that they can board at the front of their boarding group as soon as it’s announced. Due to a lack of any corridors that clearly separate each boarding group from one another, there is an element of an “every man for himself” mentality where goal-oriented behavior begins trumps norm-oriented behavior as people jostle and push their way towards the plane.

One of the problems with the semicircle setup is that, as the passengers in late boarding groups form a crowd near the entrance, it creates Continue reading »

How Security Leaders Can Influence the Collective Mood at Venue Entrances

August 24, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing The Collective

When seeking to prevent violence and identify attackers before they launch an assault, leaders in the security industry can take steps to establish conditions at the entrances to venues that lead to successful threat recognition strategies. As my co-author Jason Riley and I discuss in our book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, establishing the baseline for an area so that you can search for anomalies is an essential first step to building a proactive threat recognition process, but what can you do when the baseline isn’t the type of behavior that you’d prefer in that type of situation?  By influencing how safe people feel in an area and creating positive atmospherics, leaders allow professional protectors to recognize anomalous behavior with a greater degree of accuracy and less effort.  If you would like to transition the collective mood at the entrances to your stadiums and arenas from having negative atmospherics to having positive atmospherics, one way to do that is by shifting the component of “orderliness” that people perceive so that your entrances seem more structured.

To help security leaders determine what changes they can make to make people feel more comfortable as they approach stadiums and arenas, we can turn to the findings of an article titled, “Collective Phenomena In Crowds – Where Pedestrian Dynamics Needs Social Psychology,” that was published in the Public Library Of Science’s PLOS One Journal.  In this paper, researchers set out to better understand how the entrances to venues and buildings influence the collective mood. Their research was focused on answering the question, “What is the difference between areas that don’t have a controlled process for entry and those that do?”  When entrances don’t have an established process to get in, the result is a Continue reading »

The Collective Mood and You

July 6, 2016 in Assessing The Collective

Here at The CP Journal, a lot of our work centers on personal safety and security and is geared towards professions such as the military, police, and security. However, many of the concepts that we teach our clients can be easily transferred to the civilian world for anyone to use.  In two recent posts, I outlined the four clusters of observable behavior that we teach our clients and broke down the first two pillars, which are the individual and groups.  I applied a common sense language to both pillars so that they can be easily applied to everyday life.  As a follow-up to those posts, I will now walk through the next pillar, the collective mood, and explain what it is, how to recognize the mood around you, and how to use that information to make more informed decisions for your own personal safety and to improve your overall communication with other people.

The collective mood of an area is best described as the social or emotional atmosphere of an environment, situation, or place.  By assessing the collective mood in your everyday routine you will be able to set a baseline for all of the places you visit on a daily basis and then be able to more accurately assess the individuals and groups that don’t align with the given situation.  These misalignments, or anomalies, can help you recognize potential threats or people that are present with intentions other than the norm for the area. The two mutually exclusive assessments for the collective mood are positive or negative, and you can determine the collective mood by either thinking about it from a Continue reading »

The Transparency Of Familiarity

May 16, 2013 in Assessing The Collective, Assessing The Environment

Getting Oriented Post-Attack

Not every attack is going to be prevented.  While the ultimate goal of the Journal and our training is for every citizen to become a trained observer, and for everyday people to become aware enough of their surroundings to take preventative action, this will not happen overnight. As the number of people aware of those around them increases, the opportunity still exists for terrorists to conduct attacks.  However, when those attacks do occur, trained observers can use the same principles and behavioral cues that we use to get left of bang to quickly orient on those responsible for a crime after the fact.  Regardless of where we are on the attack timeline (left or right of bang,) using the domains of observable behavior will allow us to quickly identify who stands out.  April’s terrorist attack in Boston shows just how important the concept of assessing behavior post-attack is, as law enforcement officers need to be able to quickly regain the initiative after an attack and focus their investigative attention on those responsible.

Following the attack at the Boston Marathon, officers were able to isolate the bombers from the crowd they hid amongst so quickly by establishing the baseline behavior in the video footage and recognizing that the bombers were anomalies. According to a 60 Minutes report, in the chaos that ensued immediately following the two explosions, an FBI agent noticed that suspect number two’s behavior was in stark contrast to everyone around him.  As you might expect, the explosion surprised, shocked, scared, disoriented, and caused a sense of fear in the people around the explosion.  For the area and the crowd at the finish line, this immediately became the new baseline. The crowd was forced to scramble as each person had to go through the OODA loop cycle and figure out what happened, what areas to avoid, which direction to head, where their family and friends were, and how to get away. This new baseline is what caused suspect number two to stand out, as his behavior did not show any of that surprise, fear, panic or disorientation. He was simply going from one phase of the attack to another.  He was moving along a pre-determined egress route and, because he had known the explosions were coming, he didn’t have the same emotional response as the rest of the crowd.

What makes this observation so impressive is that the FBI agent recognized an anomaly below the baseline – something that should have been there but wasn’t.  Identifying the absence of fear (or any emotion or behavior) is typically a harder observation to make than it is to identify an anomaly above the baseline.  It is easier to confidently recognize behavior that is above the baseline, because the additional presence of something, such as excessive dominance or excessive discomfort, is tangible and quantifiable.  On the other hand, recognizing when something should be there but isn’t, has the potential to cause observers to doubt themselves, question their judgment, and second-guess their assessments.

In the instance of the Boston attack, the post-attack observations and baseline are grounded in what we refer to as the collective assessment of the crowd – the Atmospherics of the area.  Atmospherics reveal how people perceive their own safety.  Following a terrorist attack, the lack of security would convey a negative Atmosphere.  The collective mood following an attack is likely to be fairly standard from situation to situation, as unknowing bystanders in Afghanistan would likely react similarly to an IED detonation as the people at the Boston marathon did to the explosions near the finish line. The intensity of the reaction might vary, as the likelihood and previous exposure to explosions is higher in Afghanistan that it is in Boston, but the sense of fear and the immediate emotional response would be common.

Keeping It In Context

The observation that the bombers did not react the way we would expect innocent bystanders to after an explosion needs to be considered within the context of the situation.  To do this, we need to consider the bomber’s behavior preceding the attack.  The eyewitness testimony and photos of the two bombers indicate that the bombers were likely very calm as they approached their target and dropped their bombs.  There are two potential causes for this level of comfort.  The first is that these two are true psychopaths and were incapable of recognizing that what they doing was wrong. The other potential (and more probable) option is that these two planned and rehearsed the attack so well that nothing caused them to become uncomfortable during the attack.  If they were confident enough in their plan, that the bombs were sufficiently concealed and that there wouldn’t be any police checkpoints to disrupt their plans, they in fact could have been completely comfortable without any external stressors. While this apparent comfort comes from familiarity with their surroundings and their plan, it also caused suspect number two to be identified because he was unaffected by the explosion, causing him to stand out from the baseline.

Other Potential Scenarios

The way that we are identifying the two terrorists in the case of the Boston attack will not be the way that all terrorists will behave as no two attacks are exactly the same.   Because of this, we should consider other observations that could be made right of bang in order to facilitate the speed at which you can orient on the criminals responsible after an attack. One scenario might include terrorists who did not plan out the attack as thoroughly as the terrorists did in Boston.  If they failed to establish and rehearse their escape route, you might expect them to give off the same uncomfortable cues as the other bystanders because they are now at risk of getting caught.  In this situation though, due to the perceived threat of getting captured, they may continuously “check their six” to see if they were being followed.  These terrorists would be in contrast to the innocent civilians who would likely keep their attention to the direct front as they look to get to safety.  If this were the case, though, I would expect that attacker to stand out from the baseline before the attack and to display uncomfortable cues as they would recognize the limitations of their current plan.

Another potential scenario might include a bomber who is unsure of what affect the bomb detonation will have on people.  Whereas the expected reaction would be for people to focus their attention away from the blast so they could escape, an inexperienced bomber might continue to keep his interest focused on the blast and the first responders.  These cues from the Interested vs. Uninterested cluster would help focus first responder attention on the anomaly for this reason.  These are considerations that military and law enforcement officers could discuss to train their responders on what to look for.

Regaining The Initiative

By identifying the anomaly below the baseline and finding the person who was missing the elements of surprise, fear and panic, the FBI was able to release the terrorists’ photos to the public and regain the upper hand by forcing the criminals into a reactive mode.  Whether your battlefield is on the streets of any city here in America or in a combat zone overseas, analyzing the baseline behavior for the crowd following an attack can allow you to orient on the criminal very quickly and take back the initiative.  While the environments that our military deploy to are not likely to produce the same amount of video coverage used in Boston, squads and platoons can be trained to search for anomalous behavior during their response and immediate action drills.  As the first priority is to establish security on the scene of IED strike, training to the Marines and Soldiers to assess the comfort and interest of the bystanders can help to rapidly identify any potential follow on threats.

For investigators here in America, the Boston attack was perhaps the first time that crime scene footage was crowd-sourced so extensively. With the abundance of social media and quick and easy transferring of information and media, it certainly won’t be the last.  As this will likely become more commonplace, becoming efficient at classifying the behavior of those in the footage will allow for a timely response during attacks.  How quickly we can orient on the criminal following an attack could very well be the difference between success or failure in catching him, the difference between that person escaping or getting caught, the difference between a single attack or multiple follow-on attacks, and the difference between few or many people hurt of killed.

This Article Has Become Part Of An E-Book, You Can Download It Here

Updates To Atmospherics

October 18, 2012 in Assessing The Collective

Atmospherics are often the first thing assessed when a person enters a new area – whether the place makes you feel safe or if it makes you feel threatened. This first assessment will often be made intuitively and outside of conscious awareness, but after that decision is made, a person has the opportunity to understand the elements that led to that decision.

The posts that describe what comprises Positive and Negative Atmospherics have been updated and are ready to be checked out.  Just keep in mind that not all of the elements will always be present, like the Kinesic Clusters, consider it a menu of what might be observed.

Disney Land – Indisputable Happiness, Security and Positive Atmospherics

September 5, 2012 in Assessing The Collective

There are very few absolutes in life and while it would be dangerous to think otherwise, there is one clear exception to this rule.  The one absolute fact in this world that you can bank on is that Disney Land is truly the happiest place on earth.  Anyone who says otherwise is probably still getting past some lingering anger over a missed high-five from Donald Duck but doesn’t have a legitimate gripe.  This makes Disney the textbook definition of a place that has Positive Atmospherics.  Continue reading »

Negative Atmospherics

September 5, 2012 in Assessing The Collective

Negative Atmospherics is the sense that a person has about a situation or place that makes them feel threatened.  The feeling that an area is threatening and unsafe will often be assessed intuitively from the collective mood, emotions and behavior of everyone present.  This will likely be the first thing determined upon entering a new place, only after this initial assessment is completed should a person analyze the sub-components (below) that led to that decision.

Using The Profiling Domains

Individual Behavior (Kinesics and Biometrics)

–       Higher intensity of Dominant, Uncomfortable, or Submissive behavior.

–       Threat response behaviors (those clusters above) are the baseline, not comfortable

Groups Of People (Proxemics)

–       Groups closed off, not generally open to outsiders

–       Could be “anomaly” relationships

Environment (Geographics and Iconography)

–       Likely an Anchor Point.  If the area feels negative and some groups of people do not feel welcome and choose to avoid that area or situation and are Proxemically Pushed away.

–       Negative Iconography (belief messages)

–       Gang Iconography (affiliation messages) showing who is welcome and who is not

Using Other Indicators

Noise Level

–       If area is loud, it has an argumentative, confrontational, and hostile tone

–       If area is quiet, it is a forced quiet out of fear, submissiveness, or discomfort

Activity Level

–       Either high or low activity level, but comparison to baseline is required

–       Effects of crowding can easily transition a group into a negative, disorderly, hostile manner


–       Area not taken care of, streets and buildings are dirty, unkempt

–       Bars over windows showing people require a greater degree of security

–       Many “broken windows” showing that the people don’t take care of their area

–       Rule of law disobeyed, both minor and major crimes.

–       Groups don’t act orderly, likely in a hostile, uncontrolled or chaotic manner

–       Overall lack of security

Positive Atmospherics

September 5, 2012 in Assessing The Collective

Positive Atmospherics is the sense that a person has about a situation or place that makes them feel that the area is secure.  The feeling that an area is safe and non-threatening will often be assessed intuitively from the collective mood, emotions and behavior of everyone present.  This will likely be the first thing determined upon entering a new place, only after this initial assessment is completed should a person analyze the sub-components (below) that led to that decision.

Using The Profiling Domains

Individual Behavior (Kinesics and Biometrics)

–       Expect to see the Comfortable cluster as people should be open and unthreatened

–       Expect to see the Interested cluster as people should be engaged in whatever they are interacting with

–       There will likely be mild Dominant, Uncomfortable, or Submissive cues.  If it is in a moderate intensity, there isn’t an anomaly as people are presented with unknown people and objects.

Groups Of People (Proxemics)

–       Groups should be open and welcoming.  As groups close off, they no longer present an unthreatening appearance, they become less welcoming and can be perceived as intimidating.

–       The relationships between people should be valid, meaning “intimate” relationships are confirmed by the closeness the people are together as well as comfortable cues (not expecting to see dominant cues or “anomaly” relationships)

Environment (Geographics and Iconography)

–       Could be either a habitual area or an anchor point

–       Positive messages in Iconography

Using Other Indicators

Noise Level

–       If area is loud, it is in a happy or energetic manner.  This could include a lot of laughter

–       If area is quiet, it is a calm quiet and isn’t out of fear or uncertainty

Activity Level

–       Either high or low activity level, but comparison to baseline is required


–       No “broken windows” showing that the people take care of and take pride in their area

–       Rule of law obeyed

–       Groups act orderly, not in a hostile or chaotic manner

–       Overall sense of security

There Is No Damn 6th Sense!

October 2, 2011 in Assessing The Collective

It absolutely drives me crazy when people talk about the 6th Sense.  When I hear it, whether it is from a student or another instructor, I lose my mind.  So I ask them, “what is the 6th sense?”  Please define for me what this 6th sense is.  I am aware of and believe in the 5 accepted senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, but I don’t know what this mythical 6th sense is.

I have been given a number of answers:
Continue reading »

The 6 Domains of Tactical Analysis

September 29, 2011 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals, Assessing The Collective, Assessing The Environment

There are 6 domains used in Tactical Analysis that provide us with 6 different ways to look at the world.  When you put these domains together, they allow you to predict what human beings are going to do.

For all of the following domains, a profiler has to establish a baseline (the norm for the area) and only then will he be able to hunt for the anomaly (those deviations from the baseline.)  The domains should be used to quantify and communicate what your baseline is as well as to let you pick out those anomalies that pose a threat.

Kinesics: The study of body language.  Being able to identify a person’s emotional state based off their body language provides an incredible insight into that person’s mind.  Are they dominant or submissive?  Are they comfortable or uncomfortable?  Are they interested or uninterested?  All of these cues will let us predict what a person is about to do. Kinesics does not merely involve the study of facial expressions, but rather takes into consideration the entire body.

Biometric Cues: Uncontrollable bodily reactions in response to the world around us.  Whether observing someone whose pupils are dilated or constricted, if they are blushing or pale, someone with a dry mouth, or someone with an increased blink rate are all cues that let us know how that person is perceiving people and objects around them.

Proxemics: The study of interpersonal relationships. By analyzing how people use the space around them, we can begin to understand their relationships with those people they are surrounded by.  Being able to assess what people are attracted to (proxemic pull) and what they avoid (proxemic push) will let us get into the collective mind of the group.  Proxemics can be observed up close to people during conversation or from hundreds of meters away using binoculars.  Proxemics can also be used to identify the key leader of any given group.

Geographics: The study of people’s relationship with their environment.  Understanding which areas of the neighborhood or the building you are in that everyone feels comfortable going to (habitual areas) and those areas that only a select group of people have access to (anchor points) can provide us with an anticipated baseline and pattern for the people who are visiting that area.  Identifying how people move through their terrain (natural lines of drift) will also let us identify those who are either familiar or unfamiliar with the area.

Iconography: The displays that people use to express what they believe in.  By observing the flags and colors that represent their groups, clothing choices, bumper stickers, graffiti, tattoos, and posters will give us a window into their motivations.  People who are willing to make a statement through a piece of iconography are often displaying their beliefs and ideals and are often times willing to fight for that belief.  Understanding what a person believes in will also assist us in predicting their future actions.

Atmospherics: The collective attitude and feel of an area.  Is it positive or negative?  By continually asking yourself if the behaviors, emotions, attitudes, and objects that you are observing match your baseline, you will be able to identify those individuals who don’t fit in.  Drastic changes and shifts in the baseline atmospherics will let you know when a threat is imminent.  Your intuition will very often perceive this threat well ahead of your conscious recognition of it.

When pieces to a few of the domains or all six come together, they are what are going to let us put a person’s behavior into the context of their environment and determine what they are going to do in the future.  Not only will it let us identify their intentions, but also let us communicate our predictions and observations to others.

To see why these domains are the ones we rely on, take a look at the article explaining the function and the framework that the domains provide