Human Factors Behavioral Sciences Division

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The Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division of the Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate has as its mission to "advance national security by developing and applying the social, behavioral, and physical sciences to improve identification and analysis of threats, to enhance societal resilience, and to integrate human capabilities into the development of technology."[1] Its past mission statement said "know our enemies, understand ourselves; put the human in the equation."

Some of the Division's projects include "understanding the very origins of radicalization well enough to stem violent extremism at its source,"[2] and to "measure hostile intent through microimpressions."[3]

Dr. Sharla Rausch is the Director for the Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division (HFD) within the S&T Directorate.

Thrust Areas

The division consists of three "thrust areas:"

Personal Identification Systems

This area focuses on researching and developing biometrics to identify terrorists and criminals at U.S. checkpoints and borders, and also to produce tamper-proof credentialing systems.

Human Technology Integration

"This thrust area integrates human factors into the development and use of homeland security technologies."

Social and Behavioral Threat Analysis (SBTA) Thrust Area

"This thrust area applies the social and behavioral sciences to improve the detection, analysis, and understanding of threats posed by individuals, groups, and radical movements. . . Programs within SBTA include motivation and intent; suspicious behavior detection; and community preparedness and resilience."


  • Enhance the analytical capability of the Department to understand terrorist motivation, intent, and behavior
  • Improve screening by providing a science-based capability to identify unknown threats indicated by deceptive and suspicious behavior.
  • Improve screening by providing a science-based capability to identify known threats through accurate, timely, and easy-to-use biometric identification and credentialing tools.
  • Enhance safety, effectiveness, and usability of technology by systematically incorporating user and public input.
  • Enhance preparedness and mitigate impacts of catastrophic events by delivering capabilities that incorporate social, psychological and economic aspects of societal resilience.


A list of Human Factors Behavioral Sciences Projects can be found here.

One project, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), based at the University of Maryland, uses the social and behavioral sciences to understand terrorism and its roots. According to S&T, START asks: "What reasoning can be used to deprive violent extremists of recruits? How can communities undermine sympathy for terrorists and better anticipate terrorist actions? And what can be done to improve the public’s resilience to attacks?" The project includes assembling the publicly accessible Global Terrorism Database (GTD).


  1. Science & Technology Directorate Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division, DHS website, accessed November 2, 2010.
  2. April 2008, Unraveling the Net, S&T Snapshots - Human Factors, accessed November 2, 2010.
  3. Robert L. Mitchell, Big Brother is Really Watching Computerworld, July 14 ,2008, accessed November 2, 2010.