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A model of hostile intent

In order to test interventions aimed at detecting potential terrorist activity researchers need to develop and validate models of hostile intent. In a new way of looking at the problem, a major innovation in this project was the attempt to model a ‘low level’ terrorist behaviour. As such, a feasibility study was conducted which represented a significant departure from more theoretical perspectives.

The specific technology of interest is human chemo-signalling; a detection of subtle chemical changes in sweat. The study included a field study, a lab study and analysis of biological samples (sweat and saliva) including the use of Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy (GCMS) analysis of sweat samples.

Chemo-signalling is well known in animal species and recent research has provided evidence that it may exist in humans. There is evidence for ‘the scent of fear’ but, until now, no research has been conducted on chemo-signals in hostile reconnaissance or suspect interrogation situations.

This feasibility study took a two-stage approach:

  1. Empirical laboratory study undertaken by University of Nottingham (led by Dr Alex Stedmon)
  2. Ecologically valid field study conducted at Salford University (led by Dr Peter Eachus)

One of the aims of the main research project was to develop a model of hostile intent and use it to pioneer the investigation of human pheromones in counter-terrorism. Data collected in the laboratory and field studies was then sent to Cardiff University (led by Prof Les Bailie) who provided world leading expertise in the detection and analysis of human stress pheromones.

Although the measurement and validation of human alarm pheromones as correlates of stress has been attempted elsewhere, this research represents the first instance in the context of terrorist research. 

For more information email Dr Alex Stedmon.

Human Factors Research Group

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 9514040
fax:+44 (0) 115 8466771
email: human.factors@nottingham.ac.uk