Behavioural Sciences

Culture and context form part of the conceptual make-up of psychological processing. Because of this, the CSIR has been focused on the African soldier and the African context. With the focus on Military Behavioural Science Research from an African perspective, this capability is well positioned to make a significant contribution to growing this research area on the African continent.

The CSIR’s Behavioural Science researchers are dedicated to building the knowledge base of this field through close collaboration with clients. Sustainable military behavioural science support relies on a multifaceted knowledge system in which techniques are continuously updated to reflect the current understanding and needs of military personnel from a human factor perspective. The challenge is to timeously integrate new research outcomes into practical military client solutions. Over the years, the establishment of excellent relationships between project role players has contributed to the success of this capability. Researchers, policy makers and military practitioners form part of the research team where clear requirements, shared attempts at identifying effective solutions and regular interaction ensure effective outcomes. This has been achieved through knowledge interfacing and sharing, which requires a shift from seeing knowledge as something that can be transferred, to viewing it as the ‘process of relating’. Negotiating and exploring different definitions and meanings between partners further advances this. Shared learning between experts and users ultimately contribute to a skill-base that is equally balanced between behavioural science research on the one side, and practical solutions to immediate military requirements on the other.

CSIR’s behavioural scientists look at what makes the quintessential African warrior
The CSIR established a behavioural science capability in 2004, in response to the unique requirements and challenges presented by the processes involved in selecting and developing operators for Special Operations Forces. Building on techniques developed within the specialised African military domain over the past decade, the CSIR’s specialty is offering African and other culturally sensitive research solutions within specific military domains for specific requirements. Researcher methodologies include both quantitative and qualitative research approaches focused on the identification of practical and innovative research solutions.

Adelai van Heerden, project leader of behavioural science projects, as well as the project leader of the military behavioural sciences capability at the CSIR, says increasing emphasis is placed on the importance of the ‘human factor’ area of research within military contexts. The training of specialist military operators takes time and investment. By testing the applicants in terms of both physical and mental capability, researchers are able to predict success in selection courses, as well as identify leadership potential, such as officer potential assessments, to match the required psychological profiles.

Research being conducted includes:
•           Evaluation and development of Psychometric Assessments, appropriate for African populations
•           Selection, training and development of Special Operations operators
•           Psychological profiling focused on matching personality dimensions with role requirements
•           Investigation of positive psychology constructs in the context of resilience measurement and training
•           Leadership development with regard to African and global contexts

Adelai van Heerden