(IA) is a concept pioneered by Dr. Newton Howard
to describe a person’s comprehension of intentions and the relationship between intentions and behavior. Although IA is a general cognitive concept, its main applications have been in the design of military Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I)
systems. It is an active area of research at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies
The Theory of Intention Awareness developed out of a study conducted by Dr. Newton Howard
to determine whether military Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) systems designed to facilitate situational awareness
could be used to reduce the amount of fratricide
that was occurring on the battlefield. Howard concluded that a lack of intention awareness was a principal root cause of most incidents of fratricide. He in turn suggested that intention awareness could be improved by increasing the quantity and quality of "cross-talking," i.e. confirmation on the part of a subordinate commander that the commander’s intent (CI) was properly understood. Existing C3I systems focused on conveying an understanding of how actors moved in space and time without taking into account any concept of intentionality. In order to address this issue, a new C3I system called Digital Crosstalk was developed to improve crosstalk in order to create greater intention awareness and ultimately decrease the number of fratricides.
The theory of intention awareness defines two types of IA: internal and external. Internal IA refers to awareness of one’s own intentions, whereas external IA refers to awareness of the intentions of others. Within this framework, full situational awareness
is theorized to be composed of both internal and external intention awareness as well as spatiotemporal situational awareness. Along with an enhanced situational awareness, a person’s development of their own intention awareness (either internal or external) results in an increased confidence in the decisions that he or she is making. Because intentions themselves are understood within this theory to be a kind of bridge between unconscious processes and conscious processes and physical activities, intention awareness works by "lowering the consciousness threshold" in order to clarify the unconscious processes. This idea of “reducing consciousness" is based on a treatment of the mind as a physical system, an idea which is further developed in the theory of the Physics of Cognition.
The theory of Intention Awareness further proposes a bicausal relationship between intentions and actions according to one of two paradigms:
- Within the physical sense of time, if intention at time guides action at time , then by observing at , one can formulate intention . By assuming and knowing, one can predict action at .
- In this same sense of time, if intention at time guides action at time , one can formulate intention and intention which is likely to be created at time . Thus, one can predict action at based on a greater awareness - knowing , , and . Intentions and may be related or not.
According to the first paradigm, a person can predict a future action of another person by inferring the intent associated with an action which the other person has been observed to carry out, and then inferring other future actions that may be associated with that same intent. According to the second paradigm, also known as situated awareness, a prediction about another person’s future actions can also be made by inferring the intent of the observed action, then inferring a possible related future intent based on the first inferred intent, and finally inferring the future action based on the inferred future intent.
Although the theory of Intention Awareness was developed for the purpose of explaining interactions in a military context, it is equally applicable to any domain involving rational actors. A game of chess, for example, could easily be reframed in terms of Intention Awareness. Additionally, a regional and global security model has been developed using IA and graph theory to formalize and analyze perceptions of regions by people in other regions.
- Howard, Newton. "Intention awareness: in command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I)". Oxford: Doctoral dissertation, University of Oxford, 2000.
- Qusaibaty, Ammar, Howard, Newton and Kanareykin, Sergey. "Intention Awareness in a Nutshell"