Integrated Cognitive-Neuroscience Architectures for Understanding Sensemaking


Sensemaking refers to the remarkable human ability to detect patterns in data, and to infer the underlying causes of those patterns - even when the data are sparse, noisy, and uncertain. The focus of the ICArUS Program is to understand and model how humans engage in the sensemaking process, both during optimal and suboptimal (biased) performance. Of particular interest are cognitive biases related to attention, memory, and decision making.

A unique aspect of ICArUS is the focus on developing neuroscience-based cognitive models of sensemaking - that is, models whose functional architecture conforms closely to that of the human brain. A key assumption of the program is that adherence to the underlying biological principles of cognition will lead to the development of models that more accurately predict human sensemaking performance in both the cognitive and behavioral domains. Although the current context (task environment) of ICArUS is on geospatial sensemaking, the goal to model the fundamental mechanisms underlying sensemaking will nonetheless illuminate the process by which analysts make sense of a variety of intelligence data.

The primary deliverables of ICArUS will be cognitive models (instantiated as executable software) that interface with a configurable, simulated geospatial task environment. ICArUS cognitive models, in conjunction with the task environment, may be used by the analytic community (including methodologists, educators, and analysts) to examine how different analytic approaches and different task parameters affect analytic outcomes. These insights, in turn, may lead to the development of new structured analytic methods that improve analysis quality by minimizing the negative impact of human cognitive bias. In addition, by illuminating the underlying neural mechanisms that give rise to human sensemaking, ICArUS research will lay the groundwork for the development of a new generation of automated analysis tools that replicate the unique strengths of human sensemaking.

Related Publications

To access ICArUS program-related publications, please visit Google Scholar.


Contact Information

Program Manager

Main Office

Related Program(s)

Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)

Link(s) to BAA


Solicitation Status


Proposers' Day Date

January 19, 2010

BAA Release Date

April 1, 2010

BAA Question Period

April 1, 2010

Proposal Due Date

May 17, 2010

Prime Performers

  • HRL Laboratories, LLC
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Raytheon BBN Technologies

Additional Information