Deception is one of nature’s long-standing survival strategies. All of the unfolding darwinian extravaganza of life uses deception to survive — even at the level of microorganisms.

And, as any ten-year-old already knows, when it comes to human behaviour, things are rarely as they seem.

There are deceptions. There are hidden motives and hidden agendas. There are people ‘behind the scenes’. There are manipulators. There are scapegoats. There are turncoats. There are the actively disengaged. There are traps and ambushes. There are willing or paid agents. There are big investments and potential payoffs. There are opportunists and there are traitors.

Little wonder that situations are rarely how they seem. Rarely how they are portrayed. Nor are they what they seem to be on the surface. So what can you do? What can you use to find out what’s really happening in complex situations? What investigative tools can anyone use?

One ancient and clever tool is called cui bono.

The power of the cui bono is the most likely answer to the question: who benefits?

This is always a very useful question to ask. However, because of the very nature of deception there is not always a very obvious answer to that question.

Investigative journalism and criminal investigations may invest considerable resources in trying to construct comprehensive answers to the cui bono. They are trying to find out: who benefits most from the crime or situation that we are investigating?

The Cui Bono Test

When you are trying to uncover a much better understanding of the truth you can use the Cui Bono test. Whenever you find yourself looking to allocate suspicion or blame to agents involved in a situation ask yourself if they have passed the Cui Bono Test.

To apply the Cui Bono Test you carefully ask the questions: How did that agent benefit? Who else benefited? Who benefited more? Who benefited the most?

Of course, some situations can be very complex and they may require answers to many more questions than this but cui bono is always a useful place to start.

4 thoughts on “How to investigate hidden truths … ask ‘Cui bono?’

  1. I think drawing any conclusions from “cui bono” is fraught with difficulty. Various groups of people benefit from a stock market crash, for example, but it’s a big jump from there to say that they caused it. “Cui bono” is a pointer to where we should start looking, but not much more.

The SOT Feedback Logo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *