Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 1 – Causal Analysis

Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 1 – Causal Analysis
By Azrael
Quote:
This is mafia. The entire point of the game is semantics.

How do we get better at playing mafia? At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: honing our behavioral edge. Role analysis and design speculation only get us so far, especially when the moderator designs his game well. Of course, behavioral analysis can be very difficult. Not only do you have to directly compete against another human being who is trying very hard not be discovered, but we also have to be able sift through the false leads created by our own teammates. We have to be able to distinguish between good evidence, and red herrings.

Gathering Evidence - The Post by Post Analysis

Mafia is a game of information. The town players who are best at generating information, researching information, and then analyzing that information correctly will gain a decisive edge over other players. Perhaps a third of the players in an experienced metagame will put in the effort to reread other players in detail, and these players, often called analysts, will quickly become the foremost threats to the mafia and frequently attract nightkills, because they are recognized as far more significant threats than players who merely read as they go.

When a player first begins mafia, they often look for evidence by simply keeping up with the thread, reading as they go. Many players seldom progress from beyond this method. However, the most effective weapon in a mafia player's arsenal are thread rereads, and post by post analyses, aka PBPAs. This involves looking at every post in a player's history, and reviewing them for scum tells. PBPAs are an efficient way of scoping in on a single player's actions, if you are short on time. However, thread rereads, while less focused, have the advantage of allowing you to read each player's post in their original context, which can often change your read.

On initial read, most players are forming their own thoughts and reactions to ongoing events in the thread. If someone is reading each post carefully, they'll probably be able to spot a number of tells right on the spot. But more typically, a large number of both town and scum tells can be glossed over, lost in the shuffle. And certain tells can only be seen by taking a bird's eye look at a player's history, to identify trends and patterns. Other tells only become evident after sufficient players have died, that their actions can be better understood and connected to the actions of other players. Once you have gathered a sufficient body of evidence through PBPAs and thread rereads, which is simply a matter of effort and time, then the more difficult process of analyzing the evidence can begin.

The Scum Tell Method: Actus Reus

Once an adequate amount of evidence is gathered, however, most players have difficult evaluating which of their evidence is good, and which has little value or weight. Most players track of a list of behaviors that people generally say are mafia tells, generally because doing them causes problems for the town, or looks like someone who is trying to be deceitful. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the activities that players generally view as mafia tells:

Lynching Townies
Defending Scum
Over-aggression
Lurking
Lying
Poor or missing voting rationales
Bandwagon voting - Jumping quickly on to others' cases, usually with little explanation or thought
Evasion - Not responding to questions posed by other townies
Fence-sitting - Difficulty coming to decisive opinions on your own, usually weighing two or more alternatives against one another, and expressing uncertainty as to which is correct. Often interpreted as a mafia player who is unsure how best to look like a townie.

The way that most players use this method, is that the more scum tells a person has, the higher they are on your scum scale, and the higher the chance that they’re scum. If a player has a higher level of scum tells than you would expect them to have as a townie, they’re put on the short list for your vote. If they max out their scale high enough, the town eliminates them.

In criminal law terminology, they concentrate on the "actus reus". The actions of their fellow players, and whether those actions help or hurt the town, and whether those actions look like one of the traditional mafia tells. The mens rea element (mental state) is deemphasized.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the scum tell method. It does a fair job of catching inexperienced players who haven’t learned that they need to avoid traditional scum tells at all costs, and can sometimes nab experienced players who slip up and commit one in a moment of weakness. It’s also a good introductory method for newer players, because it teaches beginners to what to look for, and it is very, very simple. You read through the thread, identify behaviors that might be scummy, and cast your vote accordingly. 1,2, 3.

But as times goes on, the weaknesses of this approach have become obvious. For one, may of the activities that were labelled as tells early in the game’s history may not actually be tells at all, or at minimum may be not be anywhere near as strong as we used to believe. Two, this approach is extremely predictable. It gives scum a clear and simple instruction manual of what behaviors to avoid if they don’t want to be lynched. It allows them to hide a guilty mind behind innocent-seeming actions.

But the greatest downside to the scum tell method is that if you choose not to evaluate whether your evidence is reliable, if often wont be. Town players can easily max out a scum scale with activities that have completely innocent and reasonable townie explanations. When that happens, innocent townies become collateral damage, and the scum reap the benefits of pointless and preventable mistakes.

Causation Analysis

The scum tell scale method may be a good technique for beginners, but other methods of analyzing behavior exist. As players become more experienced, they often begin to realize that the game of mafia is more complex than crime and punishment. There is a component of empathy.

Huh? Empathy? What do you mean by that? Are we supposed to feel sorry for the scum?

What I mean by empathy is that we have to be able to step inside the heads of our fellow players. What a player does in public is only one half of the picture. The other half, the more revealing half, is their motive for doing it. We want to figure out the cause of their actions, and their emotions.

But how do we figure that out? None of us are telepathic.

Fortunately, we don’t need to literally step inside anyone’s brain to figure out what they’re thinking. We have their words. Whenever a player writes a post, we can sift through their words and find the unspoken ideas and attitudes that lie behind them. Scum players are increasingly adept at knowing what actions they need to mimic to avoid being caught. But few or none are well-practiced at disguising their thoughts as well as their actions. Here, they’re at their most vulnerable.

In the U.S. criminal system, the courts require not only proof of the actus reus, the criminal act, but also require evidence that the act was taken with the requisite mens rea, a guilty mind. That inquiry is even more useful for mafia, since the town is interested in "bad" actions only when they indicate a guilty mind.

The Anatomy of a Post

1. The effect of the post (likely to help the town, or to hurt it).
2. The motivation for the statement (scum, or townie, true or deceptive, public knowledge or private insight?).
3. The player’s emotions/mood (For example, annoyance at being thrust into the spotlight, or confident that they’re right?).

The effect of a post is the type of analysis that you’ll usually find actus reus analysts concentrating on. If a post is designed to lead to a “bad effect”, it is labelled as a tell. While there is some value to that assumption, you should not conclude that because a post has a bad effect, it must be a scum tell. Likewise, a pro-town post may not be a town tell.

Why not? Motivation. Is there a good reason why a townie would say that Mary is scum? How strong is that reason? Does Johnny Scumsucker's wording sound like his massive PBPAs are more focused on impressing the town, than on serious analysis? We want to ask whether the motivation (if any is provided) reads like a lie. If it is unconvincing, feigned, or dishonest, you have good evidence of scum. If it's
plausible, genuine, and natural, you are probably dealing with a townie.

Lastly, it’s important to consider the player’s emotions or mood. If they’re under attack, how are they dealing with it? With righteous anger, or are they nervous, or bitter? Townies and scum players react to pressure in very different ways, and with experience it becomes possible to identify some of the trends. We’ll have more on that in Chapter Two.

Real Life Application

Now let’s view some actual posts from mafia games. Some will be posts that were used to build a case that a person was town, and others were used to identify a player as scum. See if you can use the same information to figure out their true alignment. The right answer, and the reasoning used to arrive at it, is spoilered. Read carefully.

Suspect wrote:
I really don't see how all of those are scum tells. Ypu say I have two townie posts out of thirty. Looking through your PBPA, I see a good deal more from
my point of view.
The basis of you and Raf's attack against me is the fact that I missed CP's mistake the first time through.
Does this really matter? When I was rereading, after asked to, I spotted it. Mainly because, I was actually looking for a mistake. The first time I saw it, it seemed to me like simply him making a guess about what could happen. When people started to refer to the slip, I could not remember what it was (because at that time I hadn't seen it) and so did not comment on it.
I don't really see any strong points in your argument that I haven't already answered, other that the one addressed above.
Analyst wrote:
Suspect wrote:
I really don't see how all of those are scum tells. Ypu say I have two townie posts out of thirty. Looking through your PBPA, I see a good deal more from my point of view.

The last sentence of this quote is excellent evidence of a genuine disagreement. The player was confident that the analysis against him was slanted,
and seemed to have a number of posts in mind where he knew that he was thinking from a pro-town mindset.

Suspect wrote:
The basis of you and Raf's attack against me is the fact that I missed CP's mistake the first time through.
Does this really matter? When I was rereading, after asked to, I spotted it. Mainly because, I was actually looking for a mistake. The first time I saw it, it seemed to me like simply him making a guess about what could happen. When people started to refer to the slip, I could not remember what it was (because at that time I hadn't seen it) and so did not comment on it.

Note the player’s emotions here. Despite being on the inexperienced side, he’s not nervous. His explanation is calm and assured. He denies that the alleged tell is really a tell, explains step by step his actual thought process at the time (he didn’t read the ‘slip’ as a slip, but as a guess), essentially pointing out that there is not a strong reason to believe that not knowing what the “
slip” was somehow a tell showing scum-like laziness.

Suspect wrote:
I don't really see any strong points in your argument that I haven't already answered, other that the one addressed above.
Analyst wrote:
Again, it's a true statement, and it's precisely what I would expect him to say as a townie. He's not skittish in the slightest, he's fully confident that his position is right, and he thinks your case is weak without resorting to calling it garbage.


This poster, Manbearpig, is town.
Quote:
Suspect wrote:
@iLord: So do you think it's possible that if, for example, red flag was captured, that blue mafia AND blue town could win together?
Analyst wrote:
Floating the idea of the town and the mafia cooperating in order to win. Without any worries or qualifications. Unusual suggestion for a townie.
Suspect wrote:
I
didn't like your vote because I felt it was too early and was disrupting speculation on the actual game mechanics, which is something I want to know. You do seem town to me though.
Analyst wrote:
The problem with this post isn't that you have an inkling that he's townie, it's that you choose this moment to SAY so. This would be a moment where most people would be having doubts. This would be a moment where most townies would be cautious.

But you take the time to tack that comment on the end. Why? To defuse potential conflict. You don't want a fight.

Suspect wrote:
This bandwagon so far consists of "Meh I'm going with Azrael" CP, "Zomg better target than me" MBP, and "Of Course We Win" Azrael, and nothing of worth has been presented against me at all.
Analyst wrote:
Going negative to discount the attack against him, signaling disdain, contempt.

Suspect wrote:
At the beginning I felt that our win con was indeed ambiguous. When CP said "What if there were no scum?" (paraphrasing) I interpreted it as saying that the possibility was for opposing teams to be 'scum' to each other, which seemed plausible to me, especially as we don't know what the flags are. And I also wanted to listen to more speculation and discussion on it. I did, however, feel that the fact that CP specifically said that there were no scum was a bad communicative stumble, as our town win condition of course does specifically mention scum.
Analyst wrote:
Our town win condition. Of course! Specifically.


The poster, JodoYodo, is scum.

Quote:
Suspect wrote:
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

What was I gonna do there, Yoss? Leave a cliffhanger and come back Day Two hoping I hadn't been lynched?

Analyst wrote:
Good sense of indignation,
pointing out the error of reasoning without stooping to going negative. That's the prototypical townie response to mistaken pressure.


The poster, Pale Mage, is town.

Quote:
Suspect wrote:
I really don't like this comment. You're obviously familiar with mafia - at the very least you've done a fair bit of reading, and you usually make sense. So when you play the noob card to try and excuse something, it trips an alarm. I guess this is an example of how learning about something is not the same as doing it - now I just need to figure out what exactly you just tipped us off to.

Analyst wrote:
Scum rhetoric of "tripping alarms", playing the "newb card", the type of language they often use to push home a lynch on a vulnerable-seeming player. And the final sentence: he's not thinking through his analysis the way he would in MoC, he's not probing and asking
questions, he's going to "figure out" what his gut is tipping him off to. He's going to invent a rationale, figure out the reasons for his suspicions after the fact.
Suspect wrote:
A lot of what I tagged on read-through as wanting to comment on was re: Pale Mage, so I'm just going to consolidate that into this post. I unvoted PM because I thought his claim provided a convincing enough reason to not kill him immediately. As I said at the time, I wanted there to be additional pressure on the Anons to log in. So, I went to my backup scum.

On thinking about this more overnight, though, I came up with a couple problems with this. The big one is that, if Pale Mage is really scum, I don't want him to have the chance to do a second daykill - one during twilight and then a second tomorrow. That would be an insanely large cocking, and more than overwhelms any advantage we might get from keeping him around. With the added scummy behaviour that he was engaging in earlier,
I'm going to go back to a DIAF: Pale Mage. Tomorrow is soon enough to deal with muse.

Analyst wrote:
Exhibit A: if Pale Mage is "really scum". Why is that word "really" there? You've been fairly confident on him, you culminate this post in a vote that pushes him close to lynch. Why the hesitancy, the skepticism signaled by the word "really"?

Average townie is going to bypass that and say "if Pale is scum", no frills. No "really", no skepticism, involved. A scum, however, knows that Pale is truly townie, or at least not fellow mafia. And people don't like being made to look stupid. To avoid looking stupid, you're going to throw in a "really" there as mafia, to qualify that statement.

And then there's the analysis of the sentence itself, which is complete crap. If Pale is scum, he gets to kill townies twice, once today, and once tomorrow.

You weren't thinking that through in a townie mindset when you
wrote that. First off, you'd be weighing the chances of Pale even surviving today at all, if you were as suspicious of him as you've been signaling while building up to your vote (which took a good long time to arrive). And if he did survive today as scum, why would you as a townie suspect that he was going to waste that grace period by blasting some anonymous townie into oblivion and revealing himself to the thread? And if he did, that'd still be a two for one trade for the town, an easy scum in the bag for us.

That would be an "insanely large cocking": you're making sure the town recognizes the danger of the completely ludicrous hypothetical scenario you just proposed, trying to get us to buy into that theory and punch home the lynch out of paranoia.

And, it "outweighs the possible advantages of keeping him around". ********. If he's town, a mislynch is the last thing we want. We don't play this by analyzing his worth as a role, we play this game by analyzing the likelihood
that he's scum, something that you completely avoid assessing in this post despite the fact that it culminates in a vote! (Again, probably not wanting to look like an idiot tomorrow) Completely backwards thought process here.

And then you throw in that point about Muse. Muse? Seriously? I'm going to take it at face value that you didn't know she was about to die, but Muse was one of the sillier targets you could have chosen. Why try to preview a lynch on Muse going into tomorrow? She's not been tremendously bad this game, but she IS always a vulnerable target.

Scum have a tendency to try to set out agendas in advance for the town, plans that will tend to avoid hitting themselves and their buddies. This smells of that.

You are so totally scum this game.



The player, Robroy, is scum.
Quote:
Suspect wrote:
So now, when you lynch me and I come up town, you can make yourself look better by refering back to
this argument on how your actions don't make any sense as scum. Not bad. A little too WIFOM for my taste, but a good effort.

Yeah, about that, I'm pretty sure I was suspicious of you first. I FOSed you for your odd handling of the ande case, and then you counterattacked me and in a fairly suspicious way. So, yes, your second suspicious attack has made me even more suspicious of you.

So, you're saying that I was trying to get people to perceive me as town... by doing something that is unthinkable as town? That doesn't make any sense.
Now, if only we had an explanation that made sense... I know! How about the truth? -I tend to ask people questions when I see unusual activity; Net's random assignment of townie points looked odd, therefore, I questioned him on it (my main thoughts being that he might be scum and I had said something in that post which helped him).

-BTW, I'm done defending this case.

Analyst wrote:
The emotion, the frustration and self-
righteousness, is genuine.

There is no scum motivator for the self-righteousness.

He's not doing the town any favors by his hostility and refusal to reply further, but I think the motivations for those are simply a gut-reaction to being attacked.



The player, TheFooFish, is town.
Suspect wrote:
So apparently I'm getting lynched or shot at.

I already said that my official position is that I won't take a position D1. But if you really want to know my train of thought here it is:

First Az post is obviously "Let's not have silly RSV", which I like and gives you town points in my spreadsheet. But then I start saying to myself: "This is Azrael. Scum Azrael could easily do that on purpose to get the aforementioned town points, while making us look into RN with the townie comment". WIFOM. So screw your edgy play, I'm just gonna see how others react to it. So I poke RN.

Then kpaca starts post ping pong with you, and I'm like holy shit is one of them scum, both or none? I said as much and stuck to my plan of watching the others when Dechs scored enough scum points to get a vote.

I still have the gut feeling that you may be town aggressively scum hunting, so I was not about to vote for you,
but at the same time, I had no strong reason to make a case for your towniness once you reached L-1 and were out of it before I could even finish reading all the walls of text.

My vote for Dechs is supposed to be weird but other than you pointing out that his counterclaim is not something that scum would do (which despite being a good point, only raises the question of whether you could be scum buddies) no one has said why those bells I heard are only in my head.

I didn't really know that he's a newbie, so I'm going to review his posts under that light and see whether I was overreacting.

Analysis wrote:
Let me break this down.
Suspect wrote:
So apparently I'm getting lynched or shot at.

I already said that my official position is that I won't take a position D1. But if you really want to know my train of thought here it is:

Subtext: I'm doing you a solid by replying to your unreasonable demand to make my position public. Because I'm tots a good guy.

Suspect wrote:
First Az post is obviously "Let's not have silly RSV", which I like and gives you town points in my spreadsheet. But then I start saying to myself: "This is Azrael. Scum Azrael could easily do that on purpose to get the aforementioned town points, while making us look into RN with the townie comment". WIFOM. So screw your edgy play, I'm just gonna
see how others react to it. So I poke RN.

So, we have a conscious decision to see how other players react to my play before you take an action or stance of your own. That's in line with what I figured your mentality was - and it's the classic scum mentality. Scum often experience great difficulty being decisive when it comes to taking sides on a difficult or potentially controversial behavioral analysis question, because they find it difficult to know how they would perceive the evidence, if they were town.

The natural townie response in such a situation is to be inquisitive, to gather more evidence, ask questions, like Ham was doing, in order to get to the bottom of the situation.

The natural scum response, by contrast, is what GR did. To wait and see how the wind was blowing, and how other players begin to react, and to take his cues on how best to camouflage himself and proceed based on the responses of other players.

Suspect wrote:
Then kpaca starts post ping pong with you, and I'm like holy shit is one of them scum, both or none? I said as much and stuck to my plan of watching the others when Dechs scored enough scum points to get a vote.

I still have the gut feeling that you may be town aggressively scum hunting, so I was not about to vote for you, but at the same time, I had no strong reason to make a case for your towniness once you reached L-1 and were out of it before I could even finish reading all the walls of text.

One of the characteristics of the scum mentality I described above is very evident in this paragraph here, and also in the paragraph above. Scum are very often able to identify multiple competing factors that they ought to weigh (such as my aggressive scum-hunting), or the "possibility that I'm doing it for WIFOM".

What they find it difficult to do is figure out which of those factors should be the one that persuades them.

In this case, I think it's even more difficult for GR to fake the
correct mentality b/c there are a couple clues buried in this text that indicate he knows I'm town, and is finding it difficult to present alternatives. The best explanation he has for his confusion isn't that he's focused on the "mistake" I made that everyone else is focused on. Apparently, that's not of concern to him - probably because he knows it for an honest mistake due to his inside knowledge.

No, what he's actually struggling with if you read between the lines here is how to justify still voting for me despite what he's perceiving (a bit more easily than others thanks to the bias of his inside knowledge) as a strong scum-hunting record. Apparently, the idea that I'm capable of faking a strong scum-hunting record is enough to paralyze him in a bout of confusion and inertia? I don't buy that for a second. What he's worrying about is how to justify his vote, when all hell breaks loose in the inevitable counter-analysis wagon that would take place the instant I flip town. That's
what's staying his hand, that has him frozen on the sidelines, waiting for the rest of the town to take positions first.

Suspect wrote:
My vote for Dechs is supposed to be weird but other than you pointing out that his counterclaim is not something that scum would do (which despite being a good point, only raises the question of whether you could be scum buddies) no one has said why those bells I heard are only in my head.

I didn't really know that he's a newbie, so I'm going to review his posts under that light and see whether I was overreacting.

You attempted to crucify him very aggressively for what were nothing more than innocent logic tells. Both the style and substance of the attack were far too bloodthirsty.

Confirm vote.



This player, GR, is scum.
Quote:
Suspect wrote:
YuanTi is more puzzling. There was the suggestion of waiting a day to lynch Annorax, which would have given the town a greater chance to mislynch. There was also his attempt to clear LG, early on. Definitely not as suspicious as either AoK or Kraj, but if we go through both those players without finding scum it's probably him rather than Nai or Lotus.
Analyst wrote:
Read this through for a moment, especially that last sentence. "But if we go through both those players without finding scum it's probably him rather than Nai or Lotus." I'm going to break down this
sentence to make sure everyone gets the gravity of this.

"But if we go through both those players" This doesn't imply anything. It outright says that it is Azrael's opinion that we should lynch either Kraj or AoK, then, failing that, lynch the other one. He's already stated, in this phrase, that he intends to take one of them out, then the other. Town should never make a plan like this. Reactions to various things, new developments, and all the rest change opinions. No one would do this unless they had information no one else has. Speaking of that, I'll be talking of said information later on in this post.

"without finding scum" Another great phrase. This is another one of those lovely statements that someone can make to sound town. Notice, this statement also includes night actions (like night kills and cops) without completely saying it. He also doesn't say 'without killing scum' or 'without lynching scum'. Those would imply that the lynches of AoK or Kraj would show theyre scum upon their deaths. But 'without finding scum' implies that we could reveal scum anywhere, Kraj and AoK are just the stepping stones to pulling that off.

"it's probably him" Almost done, folks, but this is a doozie. Let's look at the game right now. Kraj, AoK, Lotus, YuanTi, Azrael, me (Nai). Count em up. 6 people alive right now. One is scum (since 3 starting scum is broken in this game). That's a 5:1 ratio, as I said earlier this game day. Now, after two days and nights, past killing Kraj and AoK, 4 people will have died. That is, unless the doc, if we have one, gets lucky. That ends us with a 1:1 ratio. For those that don't remember Mafia rules, a 1:1 ratio means town loses. This is something I don't believe Azrael would miss. It's an innocent little statement unless you recall the numbers. More than that, though, Azrael ignores YuanTi in his sentence. He names the rest of us, but YuanTi isn't included. I wonder why.

"rather than Nai or Lotus." Now, this is where
things are really interesting. The 'rather' in this sentence implies that Lotus and I are actually valid options at this point, even if it wasn't game over at this point anyways. If he left off the part about us, there would have been a little more innocence here. This isn't the case. We're options at this point, even though he calls at least me townie right now.



The player, Azrael, is scum.

In each of the above games, all three of the innocent townies were forced to claim under the scum tell method, despite the causation evidence in their favor. One was also mislynched.

As for the scum, all of the mafia players had previously been flying beneath the radar, undetected by the scum tell method. After being exposed by causal analysis, each was lynched, except for one lucky player who escaped only because the town doubted the strength of its causation analysis and instead relied on claim analysis.

The hard lesson of these experiences is that causal analysis can catch critical details that often slip through the cracks under the scum tell method. Because it refuses to oversimplify the challenges of pegging alignment, causal analysis gives town players a higher degree of accuracy, and having just a few players who apply it can spell the difference between a losing and a winning town.

Summary

1. The best way to tell scum from town is to step inside their mindset.
2. Mafia posts have three areas that are useful to analzye. Effect, motivation, and emotion.
3. While effect can be important, motivation and emotion are the most revealing.
4. When analyzing motivation, consider the competing strengths of the town and mafia explanations for their posting, and whether the player’s defense is artificial and feigned, or seems genuine.
5. When analyzing emotion, consider whether the emotions and attitudes you see are more likely to arise from a scum or a townie mindset.
6.
Your overall goal is to figure out the true causes lying behind a player’s words and actions. If you can figure out the cause, you can figure out their alignment.