Motivations and Espionage -- the MICES Acronym

A very simple model for human motivations, taught in espionage circles for recruitment of agents for spying behaviors, is the so-called MICE model, which I have modified to be MICES, whereby the letters in the acronym are about the motivations as follows:

  • Money (selfish greed)
  • Ideology (usually intellectual, but can be emotional, e.g., religious)
  • Coercion (such as blackmail, torture, or avoiding some intolerable negative outcome)
  • Ego (status instinct)
  • Stimulation (sensational work just for the thrills, excitement, and action, or Sex such as a honeypot but without blackmail)

This model is often applied to analyses of the following situations:

  • national espionage -- spying on one's own government on behalf of another to gain advantages for the latter over the former
  • business espionage -- spying within the organization a person belongs, to benefit a competitor or themself

Nonetheless, this model can actually be applied to many other behaviors in society. It's most remarkable because it is a very simple outlook which simple people can understand, as contrasted to many very convoluted and more ambiguous psychological explanations.

I find it particularly fascinating in those cases where people damage the Greater Good just out of their own individual selfishness, greed, and ego.

For agents who secretly engage in behaviors against the best interests of their group, the most common motivations are M=Money and E=Ego.

"Ideology" can be an honorable motivation, such as a member of a repressive and militaristic government feeding information to much more ethical, peace oriented, and free institutions (though of course the free institutions are not free to expose a spy as a source). This can be about how its leaders think, their intentions, and/or their technical capabilities. People who perform espionage for idealistic reasons are typically not motivated by money nor ego, and may not want to take money. Often, they take very high risks to their own wellbeing.

Ideology can be seen as the only "Intellectual" motivation, whereas the other 4 are basically emotional (e-motional) and instinctual.

However, is "religion" an "ideology"? In my opinion, in many cases "no", but it's arguable. For example, a religious fanatic may have a job which allows them to provide technology or information to a foreign government, terrorist organization, private company composed of people of their religion, or some other group based on religious affiliation. In the cases of religious fanatics, it's often a selfish desire to go to appease their "god" and go to a place they imagine as "Heaven" ... whatever that is ... (as discussed in another section on this website), which is a selfish motivation. I would categorize this as S=Sensation, the drive to go to Heaven, for all its happiness. Also, the emotional feelings of religion are Sensations. However, others may disagree with me and categorize this as I=Ideology, such as forced into a MICE model instead of a MICES model (see below discussion of the S).

Then there are rationalizations of other behaviors which people try to force into the I category.

In business, an employee may disagree with the ethics of their superiors, coworkers, or institution, which falls under "ideology", especially when there is no money bribe involved, and divulge some confidential information and/or go against the unethical intentions of the company which pays or formerly paid them, in an attempt to serve the "greater good". However, if money is given for information, then the person may try to rationalize their behavior in taking a bribe or stealing from the company, by getting picky about relatively petty and maybe personal matters about their employer or some of its personnel, in order to try to convince themselves and others that what they are doing is not unethical, to try to preserve their image which is E=Ego, in addition to M=Money, instead of truly I=Ideology. However, if they are revealing information for personal revenge, such as if they feel they were treated badly personally, then it may fall under Ego.

On the other hand, some employees have departed a company because they did not like its ethics, and then gossiped or discussed information without taking money in order to try to protect others from being tricked, for example. That may fall under Ideology, or possibly under S = [Social] Stimulation.

In my investigations, countless times employees of a company have sold information on customers for a bribe or commission, or sold other secrets of proprietary information, which is obviously M=Money, but some might try to rationalize it like the above.

For the C in the MICES model, many other people use the word "Compromise" instead of "Coercion", but I think "Compromise" is a poorly descriptive and much too vague word. Many other motivations cause "compromise". "Coercion" is what we are dealing with here.

Coercion could include being heavily into debt or having financial pressures such as medical expenses for a child, whereby it "Money" might not be the underlying motivation, because it's not money for luxury, if it's truly for survival or very basic wellbeing.

The S for Stimulation or Sensationalism is one letter I've added, not a part of the standard MICE model, but instead my MICES model, which I hope will become more mainstream so I can drop the "my". Some people have grouped Excitement to be together with Ego, but I disagree, as it can be quite distinctly different, so that they're trying to force excitement into the MICE acronym when they should instead add another category, which I call S, as excitement is a form of Stimulation and falls under that broader category (including Sensationalism, but I prefer Stimulation). Statistically, there is clearly a need for another, separate category, and thus another letter, so I added the S, as there are many cases of people following S as the clearly primary motivation, not anything else in MICE.

The S category applies to people have boring lives and just seek out and follow excitement and action. Sometimes, they can be manipulated in a reactionary way into an action.

S also includes Sex and Seduction, which is a direct connection to the basic instinctual drive of life on this planet of depositing your DNA into the next generation, which can have little to do with the other MICE parts. A guy may just be pursuing pistil for stimulation and relief of his stamen, or a lady may get addicted to stimulation from a stamen. (After all, how many accidental pregnancies have resulted from that ... and there are many ladies and men who get carried away by excitement, especially after alcohol consumption.) Various drugs such as Viagra are best sellers for increasing the stamina of a stamen.

Mild sexual stimulation is a primary means of many advertisers trying to get peoples' attention and then manipulate consumers into buying their product, the advertisers being the M and the consumers being the S.

The world is awash with sexual stimulation in advertisements in "the free world", which have a big influence on so many people in societies. Best sellers in the world include cosmetics, beauty treatments, weight loss products and programs, and cosmetic surgery.

The S also applies to recruitment of spies and informants whereby the honeypot may extract information from a source, by stimulation.

There are occasionally instances where people aren't sure where to place a motivation, but further analysis such as by other opinions makes it clear. (Maybe you might want to know my opinion and analysis.)

For example, there are personal relationships whereby friends get information or action, for example, in a dynamic which doesn't clearly fall anywhere in MICE. Many such situations can categorize into the S category, such as Social Stimulation. Like, why do you need to talk about some topics with friends, or do some things with friends? It might have some Ego in some cases, but in many such situations it seems to me to be just Social Stimulation. It sometimes can be simply stimulation for an action-reaction mechanism.

Of the 5 categories of MICES, the M,C,E, and S are often action based on e-motion, rather than driven intellectually and strategically under Ideology. Much of progress in the world is based on high intellect instead of "lowest common denominator" emotions/instincts.

There are many possible situations analyzed from this angle. I look at many situations in terms of whether a person is motivated out of self-interest or self-absorption, or else wanting to benefit the "Greater Good" or a better alternative group, selflessly and Ideologically without being corrupted by the M,C,E, or S.

This article is meant to be a simple one to address human nature from another viewpoint, which I think boils things down fairly simply for the common person to understand, categorize motivations, and deal with situations. > Our instincts, yourself, society > Motivations and spying

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