Intelligence failure and need for cognitive closure: On the psychology of the Yom Kippur surprise

Uri Bar-Joseph, Arie W. Kruglanski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper uses newly available evidence to shed light on the circumstances and causes of the 6 October 1973 Yom Kippur surprise attack of Egyptian and Syrian forces on Israeli positions at the Suez Canal and the Golon Heights. The evidence suggests that an important circumstance that accounts for the surprise effect these actions managed to produce, despite ample warning signs, is traceable to a high need for cognitive closure among major figures in the Israeli intelligence establishment. Such a need may have prompted leading intelligence analysts to "freeze" on the conventional wisdom that an attack was unlikely and to become impervious to information suggesting that it was imminent. The discussion considers the psychological forces affecting intelligence operations in predicting the initiation of hostile enemy activities, and it describes possible avenues of dealing with the psychological impediments to open-mindedness that may pervasively characterize such circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-99
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Strategic surprise
  • Yom Kippur war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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