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Research team receives international recognition for work in anti-terrorism

The Reflexive Theory Research Team (RTRT) at New Mexico State University's Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) recently won international recognition for its research in anti-terrorism.



The Reflexive Theory Research Team at NMSU's Physical Science Laboratory has recently received international recognition for its work in anti-terrorism. Front row from left to right: Xenia Kramer, Vladimir Lefebvre and Jim Davidson. Back row from left to


Three members of the group -- Vladimir Lefebvre, Xenia Kramer and Tim Kaiser -- traveled to Moscow in October to attend the Fourth International Scientific and Practical Symposium on Reflexive Processes and Control. During the symposium the team was recognized by the Russian Academy of Science for its work.

Kramer, a mathematician and a founding member of RTRT, gave a talk titled "From Prediction to Reflexive Control," in which she used the problem of protecting the border from terrorist intrusion as an example of the way Reflexive Theory and Control may be utilized in a real-world situation.

Kaiser, whose field of expertise is mathematics and computer science, won an international award for his development of software based on the team's anti-terrorism research. He developed the software during a nine-month visit to PSL from the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany.

Lefebvre, the father of Reflexive Theory, is also a founding member of RTRT.

The remaining members of the team are Lt. Col. Jim Davidson, a military analyst who retired from the U.S. Army last year; Philipp Djang, an engineer currently working on operations research with the Army Research Lab; Stefan Schmidt, a mathematician with expertise in information and communication networks; and Chris Weaver, a specialist at PSL and an NMSU graduate.

"The team uses mathematical psychology for a better understanding of how terrorists act. Using this knowledge, the actions of terrorists can be influenced allowing effective counter measures," said Schmidt, a senior research scientist at PSL.

Reflexive Theory and Control, developed in the 1960s as a result of Lefebvre's research in the area of mathematical psychology, is now a well developed field of research.

"Reflexive Theory provides the means for simulation" of terrorist behavior, said Schmidt. "It is a deep psychological mathematical theory and it is systematic enough that you can then build simulations out of it."

The theory allows the modeling of high-level value systems. Using the theory, values such as self-esteem, pride, human dignity and willingness to sacrifice may be incorporated into modeling of human agents. Other theories of human behavior do not allow for modeling such non-utilitarian factors. Using a model developed from Reflexive Theory, it will be possible to predict, for example, which of a group of potential terrorists might be susceptible to recruiting by terrorist organizations such as al Queda.

"We have to understand the terrorists' domain, their inner moral feud to have effective influence" over them, said Lefebvre.

The theory "gives light into the black box" that is the terrorist, said Schmidt.