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HOW HACKERS THINK: A MIXED METHOD STUDY OF MENTAL MODELS AND COGNITIVE PATTERNS OF HIGH-TECH WIZARDS
Summers, Timothy Corneal

2015, Doctor of Philosophy, Case Western Reserve University, Management.
Hackers account for enormous costs associated with computer intrusion in a world
increasingly reliant on computer and Internet-based technologies. In the general sense, a
hacker is a technologist with a love for technology and a hack is an inventive solution
executed through non-obvious means. They speak the language of code which propels
the evolution of our information technology. This makes hackers the solvers of our
largest, most complex issues. They seek out weaknesses in computers and networks that
can be used to steal data or impact the functionality of the entire Internet. In
consequence, they are experts at solving poorly understood and challenging problems in a
variety of settings requiring deep understanding of technical details and imagination.
Hacking is an activity that requires exceptional cognitive abilities. Through
explanatory, sequential mixed methods research completed over three empirical studies, I
discover how the mental models and the cognitive skills and traits of skilled hackers
affect the way they learn and perform forward thinking. Proficient hackers construct
mental representations of complex systems and their components. As they learn and
interact with the system, their mental models evolve and become more reliable. This
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research reveals that hackers use these continuously evolving cognitive structures to
conceive of future results through speculative forecasting. These models are instrumental
in setting the hacker’s expectations about effects of actions, planning of actions, and
ways of interpreting feedback.
This dissertation makes theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature
on the mental models and cognitive faculties of hackers and practice through the
development of evidence-based and research-informed strategies for improving the
cognitive mechanisms necessary for hacking. The findings will be useful for leaders and
managers in private, government, and nonprofit sectors with an interest in the advanced
thinking required for cybersecurity and innovation. Additionally, this research
contributes to the development of strategies for developing and managing effective
hackers and improving talent identification and recruitment performance. It can serve as
the foundation for the development of a training platform that improves the cognitive
abilities necessary for effective hacking.
Kalle Lyytinen, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
241 p.

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Summers, T. (2015). HOW HACKERS THINK: A MIXED METHOD STUDY OF MENTAL MODELS AND COGNITIVE PATTERNS OF HIGH-TECH WIZARDS. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Summers, Timothy. "HOW HACKERS THINK: A MIXED METHOD STUDY OF MENTAL MODELS AND COGNITIVE PATTERNS OF HIGH-TECH WIZARDS." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Case Western Reserve University, 2015. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Sep 2018.

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Summers, Timothy "HOW HACKERS THINK: A MIXED METHOD STUDY OF MENTAL MODELS AND COGNITIVE PATTERNS OF HIGH-TECH WIZARDS." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Case Western Reserve University, 2015. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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