The Artifice System – an overview

The Artifice System is a set of models and tools designed to specifically support psychological combat in an adversarial context. When you are facing an adversary or competitor it provides you with a means to:

  • analyse and operationalise your mission goal and determine the desired target behaviour change in your target
  • identify how you will assess whether your actions have worked
  • conduct target audience analysis to identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited to bring about behaviour change in your target
  • establish whether deception and covert influence is a necessary, legal, proportionate, and ethical means for achieving your operational goals
  • plan your operational activity and present your ideas in an intellectually robust format
  • graphically represent your plans to support the communication of your deceptive intent to others
  • execute your plan within a broader operational context.


There are two key components to our system:

Artifice Six Block Model

A generic, transportable and scalable model for deception and influence

As has been described by many psychologists and philosophers, the fundamental processes of attention, perception, reasoning, and emotion are all highly interactive. The Artifice System is built around a generic framework called the Six-Block Model. This framework comprises a simplified representation of six core psychological processes that all humans, irrespective of culture, use to make sense of the world and generate action. In this sense, the framework is not specific to the study of adversarial deception and influence; however, it provides a useful and actionable structure for both explaining and designing deceptive action.

In reality, all these processes operate simultaneously in one complex and aggregate activity for making sense of the world and generating action, i.e. ‘thinking’. Everything is connected to everything else, and there is no real notion of ‘flow’ as portrayed. However, separation of the processes into distinct elements, as depicted, helps inform retrospective causal-chain analysis and description of deceptive events; and also provides the basis for a loose prescriptive sequence of steps for designing prospective deceptive activity. In this sense, the 6BM constitutes a ‘convenient fiction’ – while it is not ‘true’, it has significant generative utility and provides a firm foundation for the conceptualisation of deception and influence in an adversarial context.

For the purposes of analysis and planning, the processes portrayed in the model are treated as acting interdependently. Attention steers perception, perception feeds sensemaking, sensemaking generates expectations and emotions (that in turn shape other processes), and sensemaking also drives behaviour.

Each process represents an attack surface that can be targeted and influenced independently to achieve different kinds of effect on the target’s thinking and behaviour. However, influencing interdependent processes is contingent on influencing preceding processes, i.e. later processes can only be influenced by controlling the earlier processes that impact on them – for example, a target’s sensemaking can only be influenced by first controlling the target’s attention, and then shaping its perception.

The blocks within the 6BM are scalable – that is, each individual psychological attack surface has an analogue that exists at group and organisational levels. The strategies used for manipulating the psychological building blocks are the same, irrespective of the level at which they are applied. The figure below shows how each building block scales to an organisational level.

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Specific applications of the Six Block Model

The 6BM can:

  • be used to help structure thinking systematically about different kinds of influence and deception, and the effects they achieve
  • provide a structure for analysing a target and discovering opportunities for influencing and deceiving them
  • support the representation and analysis of retrospective or prospective cases of deceptive action.
  • provide a structure for working through a series of considerations that underpin the design (and planning) of influence or deception activity
  • provide an index to help sort different strategies that can be incorporated into a plan for fooling a target
  • support the measurement of the effectiveness of your influence or deception course of action
  • support a counter-deception critiquing process that aids the detection of deception used by an adversary against us.

Artifice Deception Gambits

Gambit: a device or action, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage

The term ‘gambit’ is used as all deception involves risk, and using a deceptive strategy increases risk compared to not using a deceptive strategy.

What are the Artifice Deception Gambits?

Gambits are primitive deceptive thinking ‘seeds’, intended to support a deception planner’s ‘conceptual meandering’. They may provide a direct stimulus as to how to manipulate some part of the target’s 6BM, or they trigger a line of thought in an entirely unrelated direction. The gambits are domain independent, and can be applied to deceiving in any domain of application. They are also target independent and can therefore be used to manipulate the components of any target’s 6BM. Furthermore, the gambits are scalable, and can be applied at all levels from individual to team, to organisation, and potentially to both higher and lower levels of target. The gambits provide a set of linkable ‘building blocks’, that can be combined in different ways to achieve different kinds of impacts and effects.


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The Artifice System for Deceptive Thinking

Generates creative solutions to challenging problems

Supports the conception of activities outside of the target’s ability to make sense of what is really happening

Facilitates thinking outside the knowledge, mindset, and imagination of the target

Combines insight, cunning, creativity, simplicity and elegance

Get in touch and let us help you in your mission

Or call us on +44 (0)1225 683059 to discuss your specific needs