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Contemporary Psychological Research on Terrorism

Contemporary Psychological Research on Terrorism

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  • Psychological explanation of terrorism has failed to generalize or find any mental morbidity that leads to terrorism therefore contemporary psychological research tries to find out the reasons for terrorist activities.
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  • 1. CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON TERRORISM Presenter: Syed Altaf Hussain Guide: Ms Th Shivata 1
  • 2. Contents:  Introduction  Concept of Terrorism  Definition of Terrorism  Types of Terrorism  Categories of Terrorist Groups  Psychological Impact of Terrorist Attack  Psychological Explanation for Terrorism  First Generation Research  Contemporary Psychological Research on Terrorism  Limitation of Psychological Research on Terrorism  Conclusion 2
  • 3. Introduction Terrorism is one of the biggest challenge and threat the peaceful world has ever seen. Task of preventing terrorism requires comprehension of causes behind terrorism or terrorist activity. We hope to identify what the psychology of terrorism says and why contemporary psychological research is needed. 3
  • 4. “If we are to defeat terrorism, it is our duty, and indeed our interest, to try to understand this deadly phenomenon, and carefully to examine what works, what does not, in fighting it.” (UN Secretary General, 2003) 4
  • 5. Concept of Terrorism Terrorism is a physical, psychological warfare and the behavioral disturbances is the primary intention of terrorist. 5
  • 6. • Zealots, during 66-72 AD were Jewish resistance to Roman occupation involved killing of Roman soldiers and destruction of Roman property. • Assasin during 1090-1275 resisted against Crusader in middle east. • French Revolution (coined) provided the first use of the words (terrorisme in French) “Terrorist” and “Terrorism” in 1795 in reference to the Reign of Terror initiated by the Revolutionary government and provided an example of future states in oppressing their populations. 6
  • 7. The word “Terrorism and “Terrorist” carry strong negative connotations or negative publicity objectively whereas subjectively they proclaim to be:  Separatist  Freedom fighter  Revolutionary  Vigilante  Militant  Paramilitary  Guerilla  Rebel  Patriot 7
  • 8. “‘Terrorism’ should define the acts rather than persons, because the labeling of people and groups as terrorist is ambiguous, depending on the perspective and affiliation of the person applying the label: the same group of people may be called terrorists by some and freedom fighters by others.” Friedland (1988) 8
  • 9. Genocide Vs Terrorism: “If the aggression is directed at the persecution and killing of entire groups for racial, political, religious or other reasons, then it takes the form of genocide.” Staub (1989) “Terrorists often cultivate an attitude of moral superiority over their victims from which they derive justification for their violent actions.” Baumeister et al. (1996) 9
  • 10. Some examples of terrorist groups:  Irish Republican Army (IRA) of Ireland  Red Army Faction in Germany (RAF)  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)  Al-Qaida 10
  • 11. Definitions of Terrorism: “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological.” US DOD (2007) Terrorist is one who terrorizes the general population. 11
  • 12. “Terrorism is the use or the threat of the use of violence, a method of combat, or a strategy to achieve certain targets. It aims to induce a state of fear in the victim, that is ruthless and doesn’t conform with humanitarian rules. Publicity is an essential factor in the terrorist strategy.” (Walter Laqueur, 1987) “The use of violence to provoke consciousness, to evoke certain feelings of sympathy and revulsions.” (David Rapoport, 1977) 12
  • 13. Types of Terrorism Suicide Terrorism:  A suicide attack is an operational method in which the very act of the attack is dependent upon the death of the perpetrator. “A suicide attack is a newsworthy event for the media, as it indicates a display of great determination and inclination for self-sacrifice on the part of the terrorists.” Hoffman Bruce (2006) 13
  • 14. Counter Terrorism: Counter terrorism is an obligation of states and an integral part of the fight against terrorism. State Terrorism: State-sponsored terrorism is government support of paramilitary organizations engaged in terrorism False Flag Terrorism: It is a covert military operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are carried out by other entities, groups or nations. 14
  • 15.  Information Terrorism: A direct impact and people’s consciousness, involving a violent propaganda impact on the psyche, in order to create necessary opinions and judgments, some way guides behavior.  Listen – Scarecrow: It’s a rumor, carrying and causing negative, frightening mood and emotional states, reflecting some actual, but unwanted audience expectations, in which they arise and spread. 15
  • 16.  Economic Terrorism: At lower level, in the competition among corporation, it can be to play the fall in the value of shares of competitors, their buying, bringing to the bankruptcy etc.,  Social (Domestic) Terrorism: Daily harassment, with which we are confronted in the street, at home, rampant street crime, rising criminality, general social instability and massive living conditions. 16
  • 17. Terrorism in latest form – Cyber-terrorism “Cyber-terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats against computers, networks and information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objective.” (Denning, 2000) 17
  • 18. Terrorist: A person, group, or organization that uses violent action, or the threat of violent action, to further political goals; frequently in an attempt to coerce either a more powerful opponent, or conversely, a weaker opponent. 18
  • 19. Categories of Terrorist Groups • Separatist • Ethnocentric • Nationalistic • Revolutionary • Political • Religious • Social • Domestic • International 19
  • 20. Psychological Impact of Terrorism  Acute Stress Disorder  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  Depression  Anxiety  Separation Anxiety Disorder  Agoraphobia  Phobic Disorders  Bereavement  Somatisation Continue… 20
  • 21.  Irritability  Dissociative Reactions  Sleep Disturbances  Diminished Self-Esteem  Deterioration in School Performance  Distress when Exposed to Traumatic Reminders  Substance Abuse Sadock et al (2012) 21
  • 22. “About 5% of elementary schoolchildren reported clinically significant levels of symptoms of PTSD, 1-year after Oklahoma City bombing.” (Gurwitch et al, 2002) “60% of parents in the New York City reported that their children were moderate post-traumatic stress reactions.” (Fairbrother et al, 2003) 22
  • 23. “In New York City, 6 months later Sept, 11 2011, 28.6% of children had at lead one probable anxiety / depressive disorder, the most common being agoraphobia (14.8%), separation anxiety (12.3%) and PTSD (10.6%).” (Lengua et al, 2005) 23
  • 24. “PTSD appears to be the most common disorder attributable to the attack followed by depression.” (North et al, 1999) “PTSD is likely the most prevalent and debilitating consequence of disasters in general and terrorism in particular.” (Galea, 2002) 24
  • 25. Psychological Explanation for Terrorism Instinct Theory: (Psychoanalytic) “Sigmund Freud in dual instinct theory, proposed that individual behavior is driven by two basic forces: • Eros, the life instinct (Life force) • Thanatos, the death instinct (Death force)” Freud (1920)25
  • 26. • ‘Eros’ drives the person towards pleasure seeking and wish fulfillment whereas ‘thanatos’ is directed at self-destruction. • Due to the antagonistic nature, the two instincts are a source of sustained intra-psychic conflict, which can be resolved only by diverting the destructive forces away from the person onto others. • Freud consider releasing destructive energy through non-aggressive expressive behavior (ex: Jokes) but with only temporary effect, is catharsis. 26
  • 27. Drive Theory: (Frustration-Aggression) Cause of human violence is the basic premise of the frustration-aggression (FA) hypothesis is twofold: • Aggression is always produced by frustration • Frustration always produced aggression 27
  • 28. “It was only ‘aversive’ frustration that would lead to aggression. Frustration leads to anger and anger in the presence of aggressive cues, would lead to aggression.” Berkowitz (1989) 28
  • 29. Social Learning Theory: “If aggression is a learned behavior, then terrorism, a specific type of aggressive behavior, can also be learned.” (Oots & Weigele, 1985) 29
  • 30. “Aggression is explained as the result of a drive to end a state of frustration, whereby frustration is defined as external interference with the goal- directed behavior of the person.” (Dollard et at., 1939) 30
  • 31. Cognitive Theory: “According to cognitive theory, “The actions of terrorists are based on the subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective reality. Perceptions of the political and social environment are filtered through beliefs and attitudes that reflect experiences and memories.” (Crenshaw, 1988) 31
  • 32. Biological Approach: (i) Neurochemical Factors: “In the absence of provocative stimuli, decreased Serotonin (5HT) functioning may have little effect on the level of aggressive behavior exhibition by humans. • Compared to serotonin, the relationship between both dopamine and norepinephrine and human aggression is less clear” (Berman et al, 1997) 32
  • 33. (ii) Hormonal Factors: “There is not good empirical evidence to support ‘testosterone poisoning’ as a cause of disproportionate violence in males.” Benton (1992) “Lower than average levels of arousal (Ex: Low resting heart rate) and low reactivity are consistently found in studies of people who engage in aggressive and antisocial behavior.” Raine, 1993, 1997 33
  • 34. (i) Neuropsychological Factors: “Theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that dysfunction or impairment in the prefrontal cortex may be responsible for the psycho-physiologic deficits found in people who engage in antisocial and aggressive behavior.” (Raine, 1993, 1997) 34
  • 35. Raw Empirical Approach: An aspect of personal behavior or lifestyle, an environmental exposure, or an inborn or inherited characteristic which on the basis of epidemiological evidence is known to be associated with health-related conditions considered important to prevent. 35
  • 36. “Rapid modernization and urbanization in the form of high economic growth has also been found to correlate strongly with the emergence of ideological terrorism, but not with ethno- nationalist terrorism. Lack of opportunity for political participation, Terrorist retaliations can thus occur as a result of unusual and unexpected use of force by the government, so-called “action-reaction syndrome” (Crenshaw 1981) 36
  • 37. FIRST GENERATION PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON TERRORISM  Terrorism was pathologized as the manifestations of psychological and behavioral deviance, mainly based on the psychoanalytic framework.  Two themes were formulated: • motives for terrorism are largely unconscious and arise from hostility towards one’s parents • Terrorism is the product of early abuse and maltreatment 37
  • 38. “One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present in all men destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti-cultural, trends and that in a great number of people these are strong enough to determine their behavior in human society.” (Freud, 1927) 38
  • 39. Narcissism: The possible linkage between narcissism and terrorism was first advanced by Morf in 1970: • many first generation researchers attempted to focus on narcissism as a defining and driving factor. • based on the premises that terrorist behavior was rooted in a personality defect that produced a damaged sense of self. • the essence of pathological narcissism is an overvaluing of self and devaluing of others and these traits were seen among the terrorists. 39
  • 40. According to Crayton (1983), the two key narcissistic dynamics are grandiose sense of self and “parental Image” • i.e. if I can’t be perfect, at least I’m in a relationship with something perfect. • narcissistically vulnerable person are drawn to charismatic leader and the same group is held together by a grandiose sense of self. • Further more, “Narcissistic rage” has been regarded as the primary psychologically precipitant of terrorist aggression. 40
  • 41. “Sense of esteem is extraordinarily fragile, makes the individual particularly vulnerable to any slights, insults or ideas that threaten to shatter the façade of self-worth. Such insults are known as ‘narcissistic injuries’ and are the triggers of narcissistic rage” (Akhtar, 1999) 41
  • 42. For early psychological typologies Frederick Hacker (1976) proposed as: • Crusaders • Criminals • Crazies 42
  • 43. Jerrold Post (1984) tried to explain terrorism as a form of psychopathology or personality defect into two different pattern: • Anarchic-ideologue • Nationalist-Secessionist 43
  • 44. Contemporary Psychological Research on Terrorism (i) How and why do people entering and leave terrorist organization (ii) How Psychopathology relevant for under- standing terrorism (iii) How is individual personality and individual’s life experiences relevant to understanding and preventing terrorism (iv) Role of ideology in terrorist behavior (v) What are the Vulnerabilities for failures and decline of terrorist groups 44
  • 45. (i) People entering and leave terrorist organization Motives and vulnerabilities: The motives to join a terrorist organization and to engage in terrorism vary considerably across different types of groups also within groups and they may change over time. 45
  • 46. Martha Crenshaw (1985) suggested that there are at least four categories of motivation among terrorists: • The opportunity of action • The need to belong • The desire for social status and • The acquisition of material reward 46
  • 47. Horgan (2003) has frame the issues of vulnerabilities as the “Factors that point to some people having a greater openness to increased engagement than others.” Based on the literature review there are three motivational themes: • Injustice • Identity and • Belonging 47
  • 48. Pathways to radicalized and terrorism: Frederick Hacker (1983) framed the path to join terrorism as: • First Stage: • Second Stage: • Third Stage: 48
  • 49. PATHWAYS TO ENTER TERRORISM  Bandura (1990) observed that the pathway to terrorism can be shaped by fortuitous (accidental) factors as well as the conjoint influence of personal predilections and social inducement.  But later, Horgan and Taylor (2001) stated that most involvement in terrorism results from gradual exposure and socialization towards extreme behavior. 49
  • 50.  Eric Shaw (1986) reported that entering into terrorists organization has a four stage process as: • Early socialization process • Narcissistic injuries • Escalatory events • Personal connections to terrorist group members 50
  • 51. Borum (2003) describes the development of extremist ideas and their justification of violence as: • It’s not right • It’s not fair • It’s your fault • You’re evil 51
  • 52. 52 The Process of Ideological Development It’s Not It’s Not It’s Your You’re Right Fair Fault Evil Generalizing/ Stereotyping Social and Inequality and Economic Resentment Blame/Attribute Deprivation Dehumanizing / Demonizing the Enemy (Cause) Context Comparison Attribution Reaction
  • 53. (ii) How Psychopathology is relevant for Understanding terrorism? • Earlier it was assumed that terrorist in one way or the other are not normal and that insights from psychology and psychiatry are adequate keys to understand. However Crenshaw (1992) has discredited the the idea of terrorism as the product of mental disorder or psychopathology. 53
  • 54. Major Mental Illness and Maladaptive personality traits: • “it is difficult to study the prevalence of psychopathology and maladaptive traits in terrorist population. • however research that does exists is fairly in consistent in finding that serious psychopathology or mental illness among terrorist are relatively rare and certainly not in understanding or predicting terrorist behavior .” (McCauley,2002 and Sagement, 2004). 54
  • 55.  “Terrorist are not dysfunctional or pathological, rather terrorism is basically another form of politically motivated violence that is perpetrated by rational, lucid people who have valid motives.” (Ruby, 2002)  Terrorism is regarded as a form of antisocial behavior. However they cannot be generalized as having Anti-Social personality disorder. 55
  • 56.  Martens (2004) acknowledge that not all terrorist have ASPD, but individual who become terrorist share some characteristic with person having ASPD like: social alienation, aggressive action oriented, stimulus hungry, confrontation with police, etc  “Psychopaths lack many qualities which are required in terrorism.” (Cooper, 1978) 56
  • 57. Suicide Attacks: • People usually associate suicide with hopelessness, depression, the desire to end intense and unbearable psychological pain and is usually associated with mood disorder or schizophrenia, substance abuse or history of attempted suicide. • However Silke (2003) argues that there is no indication that suicide bombers suffer from psychological disorders or are mentally unbalance in other way. In contrast their personality are quite stable and unremarkable. 57
  • 58. Ariel Merari found that there is no correlation between suicidal dynamics and Mental pathology in Suicide Bombers. “Suicide attackers view their act as one of martyrdom, whether for their faith, their people or their cause. They see themselves as having a higher purpose and are convinced of an external reward through their actions.” (Salib, 2003) 58
  • 59. (iii) How is Individual’s personality and life experiences relevant for understanding and preventing terrorism: Terrorist Personality and Profile: • Attempts were made to study the possible existence of Terrorist personality and profiling to understand their behavior , however it has proved to be futile or pointless, since • It is difficult to generalize • Their roles varies • It may overlap with the general population who will not commit terrorist act59
  • 60. - Childhood and Adult experiences Just as there is no single terrorist personality or profile, a specific life experiences is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause terrorism. Contemporary literature found 3-themes for the causal explanation of terrorism: • Injustice • Abuse and • Humiliation 60
  • 61. (iv) Role of Ideology in terrorist behavior  Ideologies are rules that are linked to one’s beliefs, values, principles and goals. Many religions either embrace or sustain an ideology.  Ideology may best be viewed as a form of rule- following behavior. “Ideology plays a crucial role in terrorist’s target selection, it supplies terrorists which an initial motive for action and provides a prism through which they view events and the actions of other people.” (Drake, 1998)61
  • 62. Bandura states “People don’t ordinarily engage in reprehensible conduct until they have justified to themselves the morality of their actions.” “Terrorist must develop justifications for their terrorist actions.” (Cooper, 1977) 62
  • 63. Taylor (1991) established the connection between ideology and violent actions: • Militant potential; • Totality of the ideology; and • Perceived imminence in millenarian achievement; 63
  • 64. (v) What are the vulnerabilities for failure and decline of terrorist groups? • Internal factors: - internal mistrust - boredom/inactivity - internal power competition - major disagreement • External factors: - external support - constituencies - intergroup conflicts 64
  • 65. Limitations for Psychological Research on Terrorism  Illegality and secretiveness of terrorist organizations, security and intelligence considerations can impede/hurdle access to data collection to make psychological theory building.  “Most terrorist were unwilling to meet with researchers.” (Jager et al 1981) 65
  • 66. “Disagreement between scholars studying terrorism seems to suggest that it may be too simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause.” (Hudson, 1999) 66
  • 67. Conclusion First generation psychological research which is mainly based on psychoanalysis has failed to generalize the terrorism into any psychopathological condition and it is not based on the empirical studies. Knowledge of terrorism most certainly is deficient but the field shows no clear ability to improve this situation. Based on the researches conducted, many aspects of terrorism are still not clearly explained and hence further researches are still required to have a better understanding and prevention of terrorism.67
  • 68. Reference  Akhtar, S. (1999) The Psychodynamic Dimension of Terrorism. Psychiatric Annals 29(6):350-355  Bandura, A (1990). "Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement." Pages 161-91 in Walter Reich, ed, Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  Baumeister, R.F., Smart, L., & Boden, J.M. (1996). Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5-33.  Benton, D. (1992). Hormones and human aggression. In K. Bjoerkqvist & P. Niemelae (Eds.) Of mice and women: Aspects of female aggression, San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press, Inc.  Berkowitz, L. (1989). The frustration-aggression hypothesis: An examination and reformulation. Psychological Bulletin,106, 59-73  Berman, M, et, al (1997). Neurotransmitter correlates of human aggression. (pp305-313). In D. Stoff, J. Breiling, & J. Maser (Eds.) Handbook of antisocial behavior. New Yort: Wiley.  Borum, R. (2004). Psychology of terrorism. Tampa: University of South Florida  Cooper, H.H.A. (1977). What is a terrorist: a psychological perspective. Legal Medical Quarterly, 1, 16-32 68
  • 69.  Crenshaw, M. (1981) "The Causes of Terrorism." Comparative Politics, Vol. 13, no. 4, pp 379-399  Crenshaw, M. (1988). The subjective reality of the terrorist: Ideological and Psychological factors in terrorism.  Crenshaw, M. (1992). Decisions to use Terrorism: Psychological constraints on instrumental reasoning. International Social Movements Research. 4:29-42.  Denning, D., "Cyberterrorism", Testimony before the Special Oversight Panel of Terrorism Committee on Armed Services, US House of Representatives, 23, May 2000  Dollard, J., et. Al. (1939). Frustration and aggression. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press  Drake, C.J.M. (1998). The role of ideology in terrorists target selection. Terrorism and Political Violence, 10(2), 53-85  Fairbrother, G., et al (2003) Posttraumatic stress reactions in New York City children after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ambulatory Pediatrics, 3, 304-311  Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. New York: Bantam Books.  Friedland, N. (1988). Political terrorism: A social psychological perspective. In W. Stroebe, A.W. Kruglanski, D. Bar-Tal, & M. Hewstone (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup conflict (pp. 103-114). New York: Springer 69
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  • 73. THANK YOU 73