OODA Alpha, Part VIII: Disorientation

Disorientation, defined as “Mismatch between events one (seemingly) observes or anticipates and events (or efforts) he must react and adapt to” (Boyd, 1986, 115) is in cognitive terms the process of removing a situation from Level 1, or orientation-state, control and deliver it over to the more error-prone. Disorientation is not a process of the OODA loop itself, but rather a meta-process than can be done to alter the operation of the OODA loops of others.

Disorientation differs from concepts familiar to educational psychology in that disorientation, as originally envisaged, was designed to degrade the performance of a thinking enemy (Luttwak, 1987) to the point of his defeat (Hart, 1991; Danchev, 1999). Boyd (1986)’s description of disorientation was to “Uncover, create, and exploit many vulnerabilities and weaknesses, hence many opportunities, to pull adversary apart and isolate remnants for mop-up or absorption” (117). However, educational psychologists already know about disorientation and use it as a tool under a different name: cognitive load (Chandler & Sweller, 1991). Either too much or too little cognitive load degrades performance and leads to disorientation (Teigen, 1994; Paas, Renkl, & Sweller, 2004). Too much cognitive load prevents Decision, forcing a reliance on Orientation (Bargh, 2000). Cognitive load is measurable (Brunken, et al., 2003; Paas, et al., 2003; van Gerven, et al, 2004) and so disorientation is open to scientific manipulation.


Disorientation – presenting information that is incomputable with prior knowledge – makes experts and notices behave similarly (Frensch & Sternberg, 1989; Sohn & Doane, 2003). That is, disorientation can undo the effects of automaticity, which can be beneficial (Feldon, 2007b). Automaticity reduces the ability to change behavior as automatized routines execute completely without monitoring (Wheatley & Wegner, 2001) The “expertise reversal effect” is the description for tools that are helpful on novices not helping, or even hurting, when applied to experts (Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, & Sweller, 2003). Similarly, experts may do worse than novices at improbable errors (Besnard & Bastien-Toniazzo, 1999) and are relatively unable to modify their performance in response to criticism regardless of intent to change (Doyle & Redwine, 1974).

Disorientation is mechanism to alter the context of social relations. Cognitive load has been studied for this effect in a variety of social situations (Vrij, Semin, & Bull, 1996; DeStano, et al., 2002; Barrett, et al., 2006; Vrij, Akehurst, & Knight, 2006). Such an approach has shown promise in areas where automaticity has deeply instilled non-beneficial behavior (Gable & Van Acker, 2004).


OODA Alpha, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Dual Processing Systems
3. The OODA Loop
4. Decision
5. Orientation
6. A Theory of Mind
7. Reorientation
8. Disorientation
9. Education
10. Instruction
11. Student Interaction
12. Creativity
13. Conclusion
14. Bibliography