The Furry Anchor Point: Behavioral Analysis Through a Canine Lens

April 25, 2017 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

Let me start by saying that the puppy magnet is real. I get it. You see a dog, you want to pet it. It’s natural. You see a puppy, you want to run up to it, pick it up, talk to it, snuggle it, name it, take it home with you and raise it as your own…

Time to get a grip. The truth is that, just like any environment or situation you might find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, interacting with someone else’s dog is a scenario in which any number of circumstances could be at play that you have to identify and decipher before taking any action.

Think of each dog you may encounter as its own anchor point, a furry, moving, wiggling, wagging anchor point. In theory, there are a limited number of select people who are “allowed” to approach that dog and enter into its personal space on any given day. The criteria for entering that space differs with the personality, temperament, and history of each dog. In my dog’s case, all you have to be is a human with hands that could be scratching him and he’ll let you approach him (if he doesn’t approach you first) with zero hesitancy. However, this is not always the case. Think of service dogs and police dogs on duty who are not to be approached, touched, or pet by anyone other than their owner or handler. Every dog you encounter should be treated as if they have that spatial boundary around them until you’ve gotten a read on the situation and made contact with the owner.

Let’s take the act of dog walking as an example, as it’s the behavior of a dog’s owner that is often the best indicator of whether you will be allowed into the space of the anchor point that is their dog. It’s no different than the scenario of approaching a group of people and using behavioral analysis to determine group relationships and dynamics. Dog walking is a situation that dog owners find themselves in likely multiple times a day, and it’s a scenario where you can use multiple principles of situational awareness to read universal signs of human behavior to be conscious, respectful, and ensure you have a good experience while avoiding potentially dangerous encounters for you and your pet.

Interactions with other dog walkers and their canine companions is perhaps one of the biggest wildcards that can come up during a walk. When a dog and their owner is approaching, think about the four clusters of human behavior Continue reading »

Everywhere You Go There are Groups

January 22, 2016 in Assessing Groups

I recently posted a piece that outlined the four pillars of observable behavior (individual, groups, the environment, and the collective mood) and walked through how to break down the first pillar, the individual, in your everyday life.  In this post I will tackle the second pillar, groups, pointing out how often you come in contact with them and how to ensure your own confidence in personal group situations you find yourself in.  I will walk through the four group assessments, point out what to look
for to make assessments and then how that information can help you better understand what your own body is saying to other people you come into contact with. This will help you quickly assess what everyone else’s body is saying to you and will offer you clues on how to respond.

Group assessments are made by observing the amount of physical space between two or more people in any setting. There are a couple of things that are important to remember when observing and assessing groups.  The first is that, because we do work with organizations from all over the world, the group relationships that I will outline apply everywhere, but the spatial distances may vary based on cultural and societal norms for the area in which you live.  For example, while traveling in some foreign countries, I have noticed that some cultures interact with others with very little space in between them, while others maintain a significant amount of special distance.

The second thing to remember is Continue reading »

The Danger Of Condition White

December 23, 2013 in Assessing Groups, Background Information

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video (we have heard that this video is no longer available, but that the text below is still relevant) where I talked about the different conditions within Cooper’s Color Code and how that relates to informed awareness, but I recently found a video on Twitter that illustrates the need to be aware of your surroundings in ways that can’t be covered in a white board talk.  Take a look at this news report from Seattle, WA where a man is robbing bus riders at gunpoint.

The initial response when you watch this news segment is that technology will be our downfall and that it is dangerous to be so consumed by your phone that you are completely unaware of your surroundings.  That is the easy answer though and is a no brainer.   But it is something that happens to all of us and doesn’t explain why it is so dangerous.  Being in Condition White means that you have no awareness of your surroundings and that you have no advance warning about any potential danger because you are not looking for threats in the first place. Without that initial level of alertness displayed by those in Condition Yellow, you won’t have the opportunity to create a plan for how you are going to deal with the threat on your terms.  You will be reacting to whatever the criminal is doing.  He has the upper hand and you are 100% right of bang.

The real consequence of being in Condition White relates to another concept that we talk about in our classes, that close proximity negates skill.  What close proximity negates skill means is that the closer an attacker is to you, there are fewer options available to you and less time to react.  The passenger in this video fights off the attacker not because he wanted to or planned to, but because he had no other choice.  Continue reading »

Proximity Negates Skill

November 30, 2012 in Assessing Groups

I received a few questions yesterday from people about the concept that I referred to as “Proximity Negates Skill” in the Threats Inside the Wire – The Approach article.  Let me explain the concept in a little more detail:

From the perspective of an attacker, a closer proximity will:

–       Increase the accuracy for the attacker.  For example with if I was going to shoot at you with a pistol, I am a sniper from the 7-yard line and you will go down.  But when I move back to the 25-yard line you should be ok as long as you stand completely still – it will only be a grazing wound.  For me to be more accurate, I have to get within a closer proximity.  It negates the need for me to be skilled and accurate from a distance.

–       Increase the number of options that an attacker has available.  From 1,000 yards away, you are limited to a sniper rifle to engage a target.  At 500 yards, you could use a sniper rifle or an M4/M16.  At 25 yards, you could use a rifle, a grenade, a pistol.  At 5 feet, you could shoot, stab, bite, kick or punch.  By getting closer, an attacker doesn’t need to have the skill to use a sniper rifle, he can find an option that requires less skill.

From the perspective of the defender, an attacker at a closer proximity:

–       Reduces the number of options.  If you were to throw rocks at me from about 20 yards away, as a defender, I could run away to a spot outside of your range, I could run towards you to attack, I could take cover behind a car to protect myself.  If you got to a closer range, the number of options I would have to defend myself would begin to diminish until the only thing I could do is attack or cover up.  I might be very skilled with a rifle, but if the attacker gets too close, that skill becomes negated as that option gets pulled off the table.

–       Reduces reaction time. Same example, you are throwing rocks at me from 20 yards away.  If you throw a rock, I have a couple seconds to go through the OODA loop, realize that a rock is coming towards me and make a decision for how to react.  I should be able to defend myself at that range.  If you were to move within arms distance of me and began throwing quick jabs in my direction, the time that I have to go through that same process disappears.  Even if you have a great deal of martial arts ability, that training and skill becomes meaningless if you don’t have the time to process the information.


Next week, I will post the final three articles to the Threat Inside The Wire – Green On Blue Series, but if there are unanswered questions about any of the concepts, let me know.

Threats Inside The Wire – The Approach

November 29, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Groups

The approach precedes the attack. It has to and Green-on-Blue attacks are no different.  An attacker must get closer to his target in order to be successful, but it also is going to cause that person to stand out from the baseline.  If you are a new reader, I recommend you take a look at the article explaining Proxemic Pulls to better understand this dynamic before moving on:

From Science To The Streets – Where The Proxemic Pull Came From

The reason for this is that attackers intuitively understand the principle that Proximity Negates Skill.  If you can’t shoot someone from 500 yards away, you have to get within a range where you can hit your target.  If you don’t have a gun, you need to get within knife striking range.  If you don’t the skill or the ability, you have to get within a closer proximity to compensate and be successful.

The consequences for failing to identify an insider threat are extremely high, and while the fact that attackers are moving closer to Marines or Soldiers can make stopping these attacks more challenging (a closer attacker reduces the amount of time available to react and limits the number of options available for dealing with the threat), it also simplifies the problem as well.  Continue reading »

Empire State Building Shooting – Raising The Stakes In Workplace Violence

August 24, 2012 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

The shooting this morning near the Empire State Building reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with a former San Diego police officer about watching a fight unfold right in front of you.  Many people have had the experience at some point in their lives, and if you ask people about it, they can tell you all about what happened before the fight broke out.  They talk about the aggressive person getting into the face of the person they are about to fight.  They talk about the aggressive person taking off his shirt or hat before the fight begins.  They bring up the fact that they watched the aggressive person approaching or running at the person he was about to strike. And they bring up every other pre-fight action you could image.

Rarely do they ever stop the fight from happening.  Why not?  The common answer is usually because they weren’t the one about to get punched.  There was no risk to them, so why intervene?  Intervening could be dangerous.  Right?

This morning’s shooting was a Workplace Violence related attack Continue reading »

Reacting To Dominance – Finding Submissiveness and Discomfort

July 29, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

(Note** The original video referenced in this blog post is no longer available for view.  We believe the content of the post remains relevant, but do apologize for any confusion.)

It is not uncommon for a group of people to have one person that fills a dominant role in the group. Whether this be a respected and acknowledged of elected leader or a person that wants to be seen as the leader and attempts to assert their authority over the other people through force of will.

Identifying this relationship can provide a great deal of insight into the group because we can observe how the other group members respond to the blatant attempts at dominance.  Do they recognize the threat and respond with dominance right back (fight the threat)?  Do they recognize the threat and become clearly uncomfortable (flight from the threat)?  Or do they recognize the threat and simply submit, letting the dominant person do whatever they want?  Identifying the pre-set patterns that the members of the group execute in the face of dominance can help Marines predict the future actions of people.

Watch this video clip taken from A&E’s Beyond Scared Straight series (NOTEnot every swear word is bleeped out, so this might not be appropriate for the office).  The Dominance that the two prison inmates are showing is pretty clear, so I’m not going to waste your time and discuss those, but the file folders that we do want to build on are those that show how people respond to that clear and obvious threat.  Continue reading »

Creating Proxemic Pulls – Getting the Conversation Started

July 3, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Groups

I made a lazy mistake on the subway a few weeks ago; I made eye contact with the homeless guy walking through the train car asking for money.  I was watching him and waiting to see how people responded to his requests and how they reacted to his advances.  I was looking for Proxemic Pushes but as I got caught up watching, I also wasn’t disguising my interest.   Inevitably, eye contact was made and the situation changed from Proxemic Pushes to a Proxemic Pull.  I was watching him be Proxemically Pulled to me.

It all started with the eye contact, he took that as permission to approach, a sign that I invited him to move from the social space to the personal space.  You can see the same thing happening outside Madison Square Garden before a NY Rangers game (or any other sporting event) as the people scalping tickets are trying to make eye contact with people going to the game so the scalper can approach and try to sell their tickets.  It isn’t always just eye contact that creates the Proxemic Pull; it might be an eyebrow flash, where you raise your eyebrows up, a common sign of acknowledgement or recognition between people.  It might be a head nod, a similar gesture.  Whether you are trying to pick someone up in a bar, or are a con man trying to find an easy target, it starts by finding a reason to approach the person. Continue reading »

The Ugly Side of Proxemic Pulls

February 10, 2012 in Assessing Groups

When we talked about our observations of Proxemic Pulls in yesterday’s post and the high degree of confidence we can get from identifying this dynamic, we mentioned that there are some significant exceptions to this rule.  While most of the time the Proxemic Pull will be associated with “liking” and “attraction” there will be times when a person is drawn to you with the intent to harm you.

If someone approaches you in anger, gesturing aggressively and shouting at you, he is not being drawn to you for positive reasons.  One element of the Proxemic Pull is that there is no threat perceived and the body is not preparing for fight or flight, which would not be the case in these instances.  This can even be identified without being physically approached, but in situations where you are being stared down.  Continue reading »

From Science to the Streets – Where the Proxemic Pull Came From

February 9, 2012 in Assessing Groups

“A basic element of human life is that people approach things they like, things that appeal to them; and they avoid things that do not appeal to them or that induce pain and fear.[i]

Witnessing a Proxemic Pull gives you a great feeling as a profiler.  You can look at that interaction between two people (or a person and an object) and draw conclusions about them with a high degree of accuracy.  While Albert Mehrabian’s quote at the top of the post is the essence of the Proxemic Pull and the Proxemic Push, we expand our definition slightly in Tactical Analysis to offer up other meanings of the Proxemic Pull as well.  For two people to be drawn towards each other and to close the distance between them tells me that they may: Continue reading »

Why Understanding Relationships Creates Better Intel

October 20, 2011 in Assessing Groups

If you want to learn about someone (we will call him the target,) don’t waste your time asking that person anything about himself.  You will never get the whole story.  This person may guard information, not tell whole truths, be biased, or simply give you the run around.  The two people who will give you the best information on your target is your target’s best friend and his worst enemy. 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

Proximity Negates Skill – Why It’s Hard to Profile On The Fly

August 28, 2011 in Assessing Groups

Last week I was able to take a few instructors from my team up to Los Angeles to do some instructor development with LAPD’s Gang Task Force.  Getting the opportunity to spend time with the officers who hunt down criminals every day is always a great experience because they live the profiling that we teach.  They don’t always use the same terms and may not have received the training that we provide, but when it comes to identifying the threats and the anomalies in their areas, they are second to none.

Every time we have collaborated with them, I have always come back learning something new.  This time was no different.  Last Friday I was reminded of how difficult profiling can be when the time is not taken to establish your baseline from an observation post (OP).   Being in an OP allows you to spend some time talking through the baseline and gaining an intuitive understanding of the area you are about to operate in.

The day before we went to LA, there was a shooting in the Hollenbeck District where we would be spending the day, Continue reading »