National Defence spent $14,000 on poll about superheroes’ abilities

A sample question: Can superheroes leap over skyscrapers?


OTTAWA – Defence researchers spent almost $14,000 on a survey that asked whether superheroes can leap over skyscrapers.

The study for the research arm of National Defence also asked 150 people online whether superheroes can fly through the air; see through walls; hear whispers from miles away; become invisible; and walk through walls.

The oddball questions were part of a short study completed in October to help the Canadian Forces “win the hearts and minds” of the local populations it faces when deployed overseas, such as recently in Afghanistan.

Some of the questions were designed to probe people’s expectations about — as the study put it — “supernatural categories that are so prevalent in popular culture and religion.”

The study was carried out by Toronto researcher M. Afzal Upal for Defence Research and Development Canada, or DRDC.

National Defence spokesman Noel Paine said the project included a $13,750 payment to the University of Toronto for data collection.

“Work on this study was also done by internal DRDC staff,” Paine said in Ottawa. “This work will not only allow cultural scientists to better understand the spread of non-natural and religious concepts but also allow the Canadian Armed Forces … to design messages that are more memorable for their target audiences,” says a summary of the research.

The armed forces have “no modeling or analytic capability to understand how its actions will impact the psychological meaning space of individuals.”

The study, one of several planned on the subject, included three experiments that posed a range of philosophical statements, to which online participants indicated their level of agreement.

“All mental beings can perceive the world through their sensors,” was one such statement.

There was relative agreement among survey participants that superheroes can fly and leap over skyscrapers. The survey found least agreement about whether they can become invisible or walk through walls.

“The Canadian Armed Forces needs to be able to inform and reassure local populations,” DRDC spokeswoman Myriam Bower said in an email, when asked why the research was undertaken at a time of defence budget cuts. “This cannot be done without understanding people’s psychological meaning space, i.e., how people perceive, understand and remember various messages.”

She added: “To ensure best value for taxpayers, the study was offered in a competitive process.”

The next step in the research, Upal wrote, is to examine the common messages already used by the Canadian Armed Forces to reach local populations, and how those populations actually understand them.

Upal’s research is related to “psychological operations” or “PSYOPS,” a capability that began to be formally developed within the Canadian Army in 2004. Previously, Canada’s soldiers relied on other NATO countries for such training.

The military says PSYOPS are designed to influence attitudes and behaviours to bring about political and military objectives.

Beginning in 2007, the Canadian Forces established a radio station—RANA-FM—in support of the Canadian army in Kandahar, as a way to ensure NATO messaging with the local population. The station was actually based in Kingston, Ont., transmitting in Afghanistan using a satellite link.


National Defence spent $14,000 on poll about superheroes’ abilities

  1. I repeat…we should retire our military.

    • Emily you sound like one of the people that could benefit from such a study.

      • I already retired from our military. You could retire from posting.

        • So am I. But I love the CAF. Anyone who says something like we should retire our military… lives in a dreamworld… Every country requires a military. You should know this once being a part of it as you mentioned.

          • No, we don’t need a military. We need less militaries in the world.

            What we could really use are peacekeepers.

          • Lay off the bong.

        • Corporal Klinger, right?

          • You’re insulting Klinger…

        • Lead by example.

          • This is the ‘free speech’ you brag about eh?

          • I am free to point out your ignorance.

          • And I’m free to call you an old coot that’s been in the mess once too often.

            Now good night.

          • Spoken like a typical, sad PONTI.

    • I repeat…you should retire from posting nonsensical comments.

      • Everybody has an opinion

        • Yes.

          Yours is wrong and delusional.

      • Agree 100%

    • The civilian (Liberal) researcher at DND should be fired.

      • So should the fool Con Defence Minister

        • You should quit posting.

  2. Is it April 1st already?

    • You need not wait for April to be the fool, fred.

  3. Military intelligence is an oxymoron.

    • It’s clear, Sankey and intelligence is an oxymoron.

      This involve PSYOPS, not Int.

      Quit posting banal comments on subjects you know nothing about.

    • Good one….

  4. No doubt we will get all the snarky “what a waste of public money” responses to this story; but that will come form those who seem to think winning hearts and minds and understanding people who think differently than you can be done without research. this phrase,
    “This cannot be done without understanding people’s psychological meaning space, i.e., how people perceive, understand and remember various messages.”
    will be overlooked by many detractors, but it shows that the DnD is actually serious about winning hearts and minds and consequently reducing the number of deaths and damaged soldiers. $14k seems like a bargain if it results in one piece of communication that allows one soldier to avoid permanent disability.
    If you want to convince people of your good intentions and can’t communicate that to them then you have lost before you start.

    • Winning hearts and minds isn’t hard….not bombing people is a start.

      • The military are very rarely consulted on when and where they will go and fight. That is usually decided by those who are elected to office, which means the electorate own that decision and those that are made because of it.

        • The military actively lobbies for campaigns. Hillier’s effort to get us stuck in Kandahar is well known. You might also remember the army’s attempt at getting a UN command slot in Africa for Leslie who was without gainful employment.

          • Yes, they do. They didn’t want Darfur, they wanted Kandahar. They also wanted Iraq but thankfully didn’t get it.

            Lewis MacKenzie suggested that Afghan ‘kills’ would look good on a soldier’s resume. Experience with live targets and all

          • They may have wanted a lot, but the fact that they only get their wishes when they align with those of the government du jour, signals a lack of influence where and when the decisions are made. Intervention is a political decision made by politicians and that is another reason why ex-generals should never be allowed to run for any political office.

          • That’s a nice theory….but Martin wanted to go to Darfur. Hillier didn’t.

          • Do you think it was that simple given the mess Martin found himself in and the fact that Harper was waiting in the wings to assume control?
            You don’t think Hillier pushed it knowing full well that Harper preferred Afghanistan and he was Hillier’s next boss?
            Again politicians doing what they do best.

          • I said nothing about it being simple, and Hillier wasn’t being psychic…..Martin wanted Darfur, the military wanted Khandahar. Martin was promised Darfur AFTER Khandahar and he believed it. It wouldn’t have happened even if Martin had remained PM.

            The point is, the military pretty much runs it’s own show in spite of what we believe about civilian control.

            Our military is it’s own Establishment….which is another major reason to eliminate it. The tail is wagging the dog.

          • Given what was happening in Canada post-Chretien (who did like the idea of deployment in Afghanistan and actually authorised it post 911) it would not have taken psychic powers to have seen what was in Canada’s future. Martin was doomed and only his partisans thought otherwise.

            Survival and maintaining one’s empire require one to be very aware of which way the wind is blowing and a survivor like Hillier didn’t get to be chief because he was a lousy judge of world events.

          • Chretien authorized helping the Americans find bin Laden….it was a very limited operation. Mission creep came later, and not from Chretien. No, neither you nor Hillier was psychic. Adscam and Martin’s handling of it did the political damage.

            Hillier got his ass fired….that’s how much of a judge he was. You might remember he was sipping cocktails at a resort while his men were dying in the field.

            Both Mackenzie and Hillier were ushered out for being publically pushy….their successors did it in private for the easily impressed and biddable Mackay.

            It continues in private, although there is some indication [too little too late] that Cons have caught on.

          • Jeez what a mish mash.
            Harper publicly supported the out of favour Hillier when Martin went for him, Martin was on his knees and it didn’t take a psychic to see where stuff was heading.
            As for sipping cocktails while his men were dieing, if he had been fired as you insist, they weren’t his men were they?

          • This comment was deleted.

          • You said it was!

            Back up your blather with facts.

          • Emily is off her meds.

          • You’ve proven your lack of knowledge, yet again.

            Try reading the facts:


            “Hillier got his ass fired….that’s how much of a judge he was. You might remember he was sipping cocktails at a resort while his men were dying in the field.”

            That’s amazing how you can pack so much BS into one sentence.

            Hillier retired July 2008. No, he wasn’t ‘sipping cocktails at a resort’, either.

            Unless you care to provide proof, stating otherwise.

          • The only simple thing around here, is you.

            Back up your nonsense.

            You’re posts are amusing.

            Complete fiction, but still, good for a giggle.

          • Prove it.

          • Prove it.

          • If you believe that, then neither should drama teachers….

          • No idea as to which comment this is a reply to.

          • No, they don’t.

            Back up your claim.

            Prove MacKenzie said that.

            You and freddie are a laugh!

          • I’m busy and don’t have time to play with ishes. Sorry.

          • You’ve been BUSTED! LOL!

            Don’t run away mad, just run away.

          • On another comment thread I specifically mentioned Hillier as one to stay away from, especially if he decides to make a career in politics. The man typifies those illustrated in Nixon’s investigation of counterproductive commanders that I mentioned in another reply to you.
            As for Leslie, didn’t the request that he lead peacekeepers in the Congo get blocked by the government because they had shunned the idea of peacekeeping favour of intervention?
            If that is so, then that just illustrates my point rather than detracts from it.

          • The Congo mission was stopped but the point was about lobbying. The idea that the generals march in, get their orders salute and then do what they’ve been told to do isn’t what happens. They lobby, spin intelligence, withhold info, interpret orders as they wish, leak info to the media etc. They behave exactly as every other part of government does- in their own interests.

          • They do lobby, spin intelligence etc you are right, but they do it in order to ingratiate themselves with the politicians. Detainee scandal, Choppergate etc were all examples of the Brass and others closing ranks to support their masters at the expense of the truth and the best interests of the rank and file. It appeared to do the Brass no harm at all with regard to their future political aspirations and other considerations but I bet Hillier is regretting backing such a venal pony as Harper now.
            The rank and file tends to get the whip-hand occasionally and the veterans support scandal appears to be that cause this time. Hillier is chastened enough to speak out against his master and even the normally useless Legion has got off of its back-side to do something.

          • Freddie? Is that you?


            Oh, do tell?

            Explain how Chretien’s SINGLE-HANDED BUNGLING, involved the DND.

            This, I gotta see.

          • Don’t be dopey, I’m clearly not FT as you’ve already acknowledged.
            Obviously choppergate is getting to be a confusing title given the multitude of scandals involving choppers and MPs. The one I was referring to was the fishing trip taxi, which in and of itself wasn’t absolutely appalling, but the response and cover up was terrible.
            The assistance given to backstabber MacKay by the brass in trying to dig up dirt and running interference was the example I was using.

          • Lead by example.


            That’s the best you have?
            A helicopter flight?

            Versus a waste of BILLIONS of tax payer dollars by Chretien and Martin.

            Wow, you libs really are desperate.

            And delusional.

          • That’s not all I have, but as it seems you’re incapable of holding more than one comment in a thread in your head at any given time, there’s little point in trying.
            I’m no party man, so I’m no Lib, they’re far to in the pocket of the people pillaging this country and dumping on Canadians, just like the Cons only not as venal. The NDP have probably never been that corrupt because they’ve never been in power, I guess we’ll see how they fare when they do.

          • Judging by your blather, yes, that was all you had.

            Don’t bother trying to defend your lefty pals, because I can dig up more dirt on them, than you can on the CPC.

            You say you’re no ‘party man’ yet you see fit to take sides.

            All parties are corrupt.inept to one degree or another, yet you only give examples from one side.

          • Well there’s something to be said for insisting that the current government who has the majority and makes law regardless of the opposition should behave itself.
            I mean shouldn’t the main focus for the people be those who actually can put their plans into operation and ignore them when they are found out indulging in corruption?
            I’m for keeping the government of the day honest, not taking sides and ignoring criminality because “my team” did it.

          • Considering the alternatives, we’re lucky the CPC is in charge and not the other goofs.

          • And you accuse others of blind partisanship… project much?

          • Project, little.

            I’m pointing out the logic of the choice.

            NDP – Layton (deceased), Angry Tommy Mulcair
            Liberals – Martin, Ignatieff, Dion, Trudeau

            CPC – Harper

          • Libs and Cons – tried and found very wanting, corrupt and criminal
            NDP – none of those things… yet

            Now there’s the real choice.

          • Go back and read up on Happy Jack’s ‘massages’….

          • As if you know anything about the CF fred.

            Explain how you think you know so much.

            I need a giggle.

          • That too is complete hogwash. FT_Ward clearly has zero understanding of the Military.

          • Fred, you keep demonstrating your utter lack of any sort of knowledge of the military.

            Why is that?

            The military does NOT ‘actively lobby for campaigns’.

            Prove me wrong.
            Show me where the Hillier and the CF has lobbied for going to war.

            You’re so SNAFU’d you have a UN posting somehow confused with going to war.

            I need another laugh at your expense.

          • If it’s so ‘well known’, then provide a link to it.

      • So when are you heading over to Afghanistan to go share your lame-brain ideas with the Taliban?

        • HI Steve

          • BUSTED.

          • Harper is busted? Okay then.

          • Emily has been caught in her lies!


            All she has left is some lame distractions….

      • How’d that work out on 9/11 or in Kuwait?

    • It would be easier to believe this if Canadian troops in Afghanistan hadn’t regularly shot at innocent motorists they felt threatened by. Or is an academic study on “the effects of foreigners shooting at you” required?

      The CF’s concern for getting the know Afghans didn’t extend to learning any Afghan languages. Despite having two under graduate universities and second language schools on every major base the CF did nothing in the way of intensive language training. It was too hard. They couldn’t tell who was going in time. You’d only need it for one tour. It took away from improving French scores.

      So DND wasn’t serious about learning about Afghans and this waste of money does nothing to disprove it.

      • True
        But this won’t be our last foray into overseas conflicts. Anything that can be learned will be useful to those at the sharp end. War is a fact of life, no matter how much we all do not want it; trying to reduce its impact is a worthwhile use of resources.
        As for languages, that’s the problem when you concentrate on producing industry fodder at the expense of the arts. Languages, ethnic studies etc all have their place when dealing with our global neighbours and are really useful when trying to communicate with resistance cells in our enemy’s territory. But unfortunately the same people who are willing to send folk out to fight in foreign climes are also those who bemoan tertiary education generally and the arts and humanities in particular.

        • The modern military is in love with the idea of post-graduate education -overwhelming in the arts. The CF has adopted the US custom that almost all officers must have undergraduate degrees (the exceptions are old NCOs commissioned from the ranks) and is moving toward the US position that all senior officers should/must have post-graduate degrees. The education industry has reacted to this demand by providing all manner of distance learning degrees with suitable credit for “life-experience”. The actual value or difficulty of these programs is debatable but in no way can the military be accused of being “anti-education” but it is guilty of thinking long term- which means preparation for joint command in a system where fluency in English and French is vastly more important than how well one performed on a tour in Afghanistan as a junior officer.

          We may be foolish enough to embark on another optional ground war but the organizational culture of the CF will not have changed. We should keep this in mind.

          • Well something like 60 countries speak English, and 40 speak French….so being a Canadian bilingual means being at home in 100 countries.

            Meanwhile the US fired all Arabic translators after 9/11….then promptly entered Afghanistan and Iraq.

            But more than anything ….we’re preparing for the wrong kind of war.

          • “But more than anything ….we’re preparing for the wrong kind of war.”?

            Okay Klinger, what kind of war are they preparing for?
            What is the ‘right’ kind of war?

          • It’s an interesting reply and I’ve no doubt that you are right but for two things:
            1: my criticism was not of the military but rather the Governments at Federal and Provincial level where cut backs have targeted the full time faculties of arts and the humanities.
            2: I specifically mentioned languages and ethnic studies as critical. Studies that include spending time amongst subject populations would be good too, but funding for such courses are also being attacked by our “pro-military” government.

            As to the closing comment, the culture will never change as I believe the the CF is falling victim to the same situation that the UK Armed Forces fell into in the early part of the last century and was documented well in Nixon’s book “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence.” When the brass only promote those like them only slightly less able it doesn’t auger well for the future.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Are you a 12 year old girl? Most of your posts are closer to the cyber bullying little girls do than anything you’d expect from an adult.

          • A 12 yr. old girl knows more about military matters, than you, freddie….

            ALL of your posts are made up nonsense.
            I’m merely pointing it out.

            Don’t like it?
            Then quit posting garbage.

          • That too is nonsense.

          • Usually I appreciate parsimony, but your comment tells me nothing.

          • Neither does your comment….

          • Which one?

          • All of them.

          • “The modern military is in love with the idea of post-graduate education -overwhelming in the arts.”?

            Fred, why do you keep putting your ignorance on display for all to see?

            A 10 second search would have saved you from the ridicule.


            You obviously haven’t clued into the fact that some postings aren’t close to Universities, either.

            “..but it is guilty of thinking long term- which means preparation for joint command in a system where fluency in English and French is vastly more important than how well one performed on a tour in Afghanistan as a junior officer.”???

            What in the world is THAT gibberish supposed to mean?

            You speak of foolishness, well you are the expert on that subject, clearly.

          • That is complete nonsense!

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Freddie, a lot of people know you’re full of hot air….

      • …Canadian troops in Afghanistan hadn’t regularly shot at innocent motorists they felt threatened by.”?

        Wrong again freddie.,13319,102263,00.html

        The only innocent civilians that died, were caught in the bomb attacks, as my proof clearly shows.

        Prove me wrong, if you want to act intelligent.

        “The CF’s concern for getting the know Afghans didn’t extend to learning any Afghan languages.”?
        When the CF went to DS1, did the CF members learn Arabic?
        In Yugoslavia, did they learn Bosnian? Croatian? Serbian?
        How about Africa? Did they have to learn Somali, in Somalia?
        So, freddie, in your ‘not even remotely close to expert’ opinion, which dialect should they have learned?

        Again, another example of your ineptitude.

        “Despite having two under graduate universities and second language schools on every major base…”??

        News flash, fred!

        RRMC closed almost TWO DECADES ago.

        RMC is all that’s left.

        As for your fantasy, about second language schools, you aren’t even close to the truth.

        Every major base does NOT have one.

        Not that you’ve ever been on a base or have served, and would know that.

        “It was too hard. They couldn’t tell who was going in time. You’d only need it for one tour. It took away from improving French scores.”?

        The only thing that’s too hard to do, is your ability to learn.

        So what you’re saying is EVERY member deploying should have learned what?

        Pashto or Dari?

        Which one?
        You just shot down your own argument!

        Why waste money teaching a language that will only be needed on perhaps one tour?

        The CF had translators and was teaching Afghani personnel English.

        “So DND wasn’t serious about learning about Afghans and this waste of money does nothing to disprove it.”?

        The only thing proven here, is that you aren’t serious.


        • I expect everyone who has read anything you’ve written understands you’re a bully, a liar and judging by your posts functionally illiterate.

          • Poor little mental-ward is cranky over being busted….


            Try to prove me wrong, instead of posting your over-used, lame, childish insults.

            I need another laugh at your expense.

  5. I am not the least bit surprised whatever the CAF does these days with the leadership the have (or do not have)

    • Didn’t read the article, I see….