When the criminologist, security or risk professional is unable to read people or the situation then they are inviting collateral damage. Many top lecturers have somewhere sentenced in their training material ‘ the security professional must be able to think-out-of-the-box, or a criminologist attempts to think like a criminal’’ This is called critical thinking.

Critical thinking in criminology, security and risk

There is research done on critical thinking in the educational field and the researchers find it difficult to define critical thinking besides trying to teach and prove it. This critical-thinking research work themes criminology, security and risk and therefore has distinct objectives as the demands and outcomes are focused on specific goals. Therefore, for this field of focus I define ‘’critical thinking as bridging narrative research with situational awareness with specific skills and trained in a unique way’’. These are cognitive and meta-cognitive skill-sets that contain, lie, deception detection and investigative interviewing taking cultural behaviour into account. These are trained in a unique way to obtain specific matching results or unique outcomes.

Against this backdrop, I found that there are commonalities with research done on critical thinking, narrative research and situational awareness. All pay attention to;

  • The type of person (mental and emotional state of being)
  • The value of information and the methods to obtain information
  • Specific skill-sets and unique method of training
  • Measurement of specific results and unique outcomes


Practitioners in Criminology, Security and Risk could handle life impacting and life & death situations and therefore, must acknowledge soft-skills as a necessity, just as,  a surgeon must master the skill-craft of using a scalpel even if they only are responsible for one life at a time.

It is not the weapon that commits crime or terror – it is people. Therefore, the core focus of the practitioner is the ability to read the situation and the people involved.

Furthermore, it is imperative that practitioners work with reliable and all-the-information just as a surgeon would view x-rays, blood-work and scans before taking on the responsibility of the patient.


Critical thinking uncovers loopholes, issues or opportunities.This research has discovered that there are some thesis and dissertations that are built on Lies and Misinformation. When the narrative research is based on hear-say, false news, feedback and input from people that have been interviewed, then the results and outcomes of the document could be built on lies and misinformation. People happen to lie, hide or volunteer information for their own agenda. It may be naivety on behalf of the master’s student, but there could be students that resort to deception for their own agenda. The only way to validate the authenticity of the information is for the researchers and the examiners is to use lie, deception detection and investigative interviewing techniques taking cultural behaviour into account. The issue here is that this work has uncovered damming issues whereas some professionals believe that they can read people all people, but, this is not the case for many reasons and therefore, they have in-hand issues happening on-the-ground that they are unaware of.

This above story therefore, draws attention to Security Governance Management to acquire the skill-sets to comprehend the true situation by obtaining accurate reporting from people on the ground, as lives hang in the balance.


The Critical Thought on the Situational/Narrative Framework

All of the above mentioned in ‘’current global challenges’’ speak to one thing,  it is not the weapon that kills, maims, rapes, commits crime or terror – it is people! Critical Thinking therefore, must consider Situational Awareness of distinct cultures and the culture of the situation. Furthermore, as these people all have stories to tell, narrative awareness and comprehending the narrative framework must be comprehended for critical thinking.

Everybody has a story and when you hear – ”Oh tell me another story”, then what do you make of that? Heard that one before! Who tells the stories? The bosses, the experts and consultants, the clients, the staff, actually, any person that lives and breathes has a story.

As soon as people open their mouth, the story begins, which could begin with a few words or a full story that could be made up of the truth, half-truths, a total fabrication and perhaps presented by a person that has an agenda. Any decision based on insufficient or inaccurate information will deliver collateral damage

There is a habitual pattern that dictates how the person is thinking. We want to discover the intentions of others. People usually pay attention to their unconscious desire or conscious agenda. How many times have you heard the words ‘’ what is it that you or they want?’’ By instinct people use these words and what is really being said is ‘’ what are the intentions?’’ This question is a vital question to ask oneself or to discover, because a true professional must comprehend the agendas. In this way, they can then picture the steps that are being taken by a person of interest (story pattern).

 Is there a story going on between the people on the ground or a person of interest? When people are being bullied, blackmailed or extorted, one must identify the story in theatre to comprehend the intentions of others.

When people are volunteering information then it gives direction to question their agenda. Therefore, in their discussions they may approach the subject from various angles or relate a story and then follow through by insinuating that the person of interest may relate to such. People telling stories and may belittle another or talk bad about another so that you diminish your respect for someone. What is their intention?

A specific issue to keep in mind is that you have no idea who can read you better while you are reading them. Your pet hates, little secrets and hidden desires are on full-public view. A hostage negotiator or uncover operative must contain their true feelings but there are some issues that are very difficult to hide, namely;

Moral Compass, Political affiliations and/or Religious beliefs


Security Managers base their entire risk plan on historic data, but the most important parts are what is the story going on now and what we do not know – is what we have to find out.

Consequently, the true professional practitioner must acquire the skill-sets and master the skill-craft for critical thinking using lie, deception detection and investigative interviewing taking cultural behaviour into account to know the true story and to heighten situational awareness


Security success depends on the level of situational awareness, of the decision makers on the ground and reaction speed. (Kirsten 2018)

Need to know


Discover the situational awareness of the region of interest we must consider historic data, and current challenges as there may be unique issues impacting the region of interest, which, would in-turn impact the people-on-the-ground, or person-of-interest. There must be mitigating mechanisms in-place and in-line with what we do know. When it comes down to ‘what we do not know’ and which may be unique to our region of interest (the X Factor), at any time, then we are inviting collateral damage. This X factor is the biggest nightmare for any professional.

What is truly going on?

Who is involved?

How are they involved?

Why are they involved?

What are their intentions?


The X factor will be discovered by the people-on-the-ground. When the people on the ground identifies the issues that others are unaware of, then initiative, quick decisions and implementation of mechanisms goes into effect. Therefore, I took my research question and dissected it into modular elements. Security Success depends on the level of situational awareness of the decision maker on the ground and reaction speed.

The mentality of the professional comprehends that they could handle life impacting or life & death situations and therefore is in a constant state of situational awareness and making decisions on reliable and sufficient information. Subsequently, the term situational awareness is expanded to comprehend the full picture.

Security success is dependent on the level of Situational Awareness of people. People tell stories for many reasons, which could be witness statements, job interviews, tourists at border control, to give one an idea. People do lie, hide or volunteer information for their own agenda.

There are distinct issues to consider where people are positioned and how that would impact on the level of situational awareness of a region of interest, the job functions of the people on the ground or a person of interest.

Professionals must know the intentions of people to make decisions, therefore, why is ‘decision making’ connected to situational awareness is crucial and must be considered as foremost priority?’’ 



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