Psychology of terrorism

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This is the set of slides from my workshop on the Psychology of Terrorism given at the University of Pittsburgh

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Psychology of terrorism

  1. 1. Psychology of Terrorism Bruce A. Sorkin, Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh
  2. 2. Please answer the following: n  Would you administer a lethal electrical shock to an unwilling victim if I asked you to do so (and did not threaten you)? n  What percentage of normal people would? n  What percentage of normal people would if two of the three people they worked with said they would? 10/5/132
  3. 3. 10/5/133 D.O.J. Definition of Terrorism n  The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives
  4. 4. UN General Assembly Definition n  "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them." 10/5/134
  5. 5. 10/5/135 Succinct definitions of terrorism n  “Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead.” – Brian Jenkins n  Terrorism is Psychological Warfare – Clark McCauley
  6. 6. 10/5/136 Total Deaths 4.1B Small Pox 300M All Wars and Conflicts 148M Terrorism .5 M Terrorism in Perspective: Death in the 20th Century
  7. 7. 10/5/137 Explosions and Injuries: The English Gunpowder Plot 1605 n  English Catholics plot to blow up Parliament to incite a war n  2.5 tons of gunpowder in cellar n  Guy Fawkes (right) identified leader n  Stopped by anonymous letter
  8. 8. 10/5/138 Sept 16, 1920 Wall Street is Bombed n  100 lbs. of dynamite and 500 lbs. of steel explodes in front of the offices of JP Morgan. n  40 dead and 300 injured n  Panic sets in because of rumors of more bombs in NYC n  Anarchists are suspected but never convicted n  This occurred less than a mile from Ground Zero
  9. 9. Terrorism in the US Mainland 10/5/139 •  Between 2001 and 2009 there were 91 domestic terrorist incidents on US soil •  Most terrorist attacks against US targets occurs on foreign soil (attacks on businesses and personnel). •  Tragically, I have to update this to include the April 15 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing with 3 dead and 264 wounded
  10. 10. 10/5/1310 Suicide Bombing n  Suicide bombers wearing belt or vest loaded with explosives and shrapnel ../../../Videos/RealPlayer%20Downloads/ msnbc%20video%20%20Web%20video %20teaches%20terrorists.flv
  11. 11. 10/5/1311 Car and Truck Bombs
  12. 12. Lethal Blast Radius Surrounding Cathedral of Learning 10/5/1312
  13. 13. 10/5/1313 Mechanism of Injury in Explosions n  Primary Blast Injury: n  Direct effect of overpressurization n  Rupture and hemorrhage in gas-filled organs (ear, lung, stomach) n  Secondary Blast Injury: n  Flying debris and bomb fragments cause lacerations, amputation, blunt force injury, infection by “human shrapnel.” n  Tertiary Blast Injury: n  Result of being thrown by the blast wind resulting in laceration/blunt force trauma
  14. 14. Chemical Terrorism n  The use of chemical agents including Nerve agents, blister agents, blood agents and choking agents to further terrorist agendas. 10/5/1314
  15. 15. 10/5/1315 Chemical agents: Nerve Agents n  Nerve Agents n  Example: Sarin (GB) n  Lethal within one minute at low doses n  Action: Inhibit acetylcholinesterase and bring on loss of consciousness, seizures, rigid paralysis and apnea (breathing ceases). n  Treatment: Atropine at high doses n  Believed to be agent used by Syria 2013 resulting in 1,729 deaths
  16. 16. 10/5/1316 Chemical Agents: Vesicants (Blister Agents) n  Examples n  Mustard Gas n  Phosphine n  Actions: n  Cause burning and blistering n  Extreme pain n  Pulmonary edema and thrombosis n  Incapacitation is primary – death by infection or choking secondary aim
  17. 17. 10/5/1317 Chemical Agents: Blood Agents n  Examples: n  Cyanide n  Arsine n  Action n  Inhibit blood’s ability to absorb and transfer oxygen leading to suffocation
  18. 18. 10/5/1318 Chemical Agents: Choking Agents n  Examples: n  Chlorine gas n  Phosphine n  Actions n  Injury to respiratory tract leading to pulmonary edema and respiratory failure
  19. 19. 10/5/1319 Bioterrorism n  The use of biological weapons including viruses, bacteria and toxins to further terrorist goals n  Examples n  1984- In Dalles Oregon, followers of cult leader Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh attempt to influence local election by infecting salad bar with salmonella bacteria. 751 people infected, none dead.
  20. 20. 10/5/1320 Examples of Bioterrorism n  14th Century. Invading armies catapult corpses of plague victim over city walls
  21. 21. 10/5/1321 Examples of Bioterrorism n  2001 Anthrax Attacks n  Anthrax is sent through the mail beginning 9-28-05 and for the next several weeks. n  Five people die n  Case remains unsolved
  22. 22. 10/5/1322 Smallpox n  Variola virus was eradicated in 1980, but stockpiles of virus at CDC, WHO and in Moscow. n  Death from toxemia (poisoning) in about 30% of cases. n  Though the lethality rate is low, the danger with Smallpox is how rapidly and easily it spreads. n  Smallpox estimated to have killed ¾ of the Incan Empire n  Vaccination in U.S. discontinued in 1972 n  U.S. stockpiles enough vaccine for every U.S. citizen in undisclosed locations that can be deployed thru the U.S. within 12H
  23. 23. 10/5/1323 Anthrax n  Caused by spore-forming bacterium Bacillus antracis n  Subtypes n  Inhalational n  Cutaneous n  Gastrointestinal n  Mortality Rate of Inhalational Anthrax is 85% untreated, ~50% treated
  24. 24. 10/5/1324 Plague n  Caused by coccobacillus Yersina pestis n  Severe fever n  Mortality rate of 57% and worst if treatment is delayed.
  25. 25. 10/5/1325 Botulism n  Paralytic illness caused by neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. Has been developed as a biological weapon n  Botulinium toxin is the most lethal toxin known (.001 micrograms/kg is lethal dose). n  Triad of symptoms n  Afebrile n  Symmetrical descending flaccid paralysis n  Clear sensorium
  26. 26. 10/5/1326 Tularemia n  Caused by Francisella tularensis bacteria n  Spread by contact or inhalation n  Has been developed as a biological weapon n  Mortality is 60% if untreated n  Fever, pneumonia
  27. 27. 10/5/1327 Hemorrhagic Fever Virus n  Several RNA viruses n  Ebola n  Marburg n  Fever, encephalitis, hemorrhagic symptoms n  Mortality ranges from 1% for Rift Valley Fever to 90% for Ebola and Marburg.
  28. 28. 10/5/1328 Aggression: Emotional and Instrumental n  Emotional n  Reaction in anger n  The reward is the infliction of suffering on those you hate, envy or fear. n  Instrumental (Terrorism as a tool) n  inflict long-term costs n  create fear & uncertainty n  decrease the enemy’s capacity to produce, organize or defend n  force a military response & galvanize support for the terrorist group. n  force the enemy to spend time and money on security
  29. 29. Instrumental Terrorism: Economic Warfare n  This is the cover of “Inspire” reportedly published by AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) n  Agents planted two bombs with PETN Explosive (not detectible with metal scanners) in vacuum packed envelopes (not bomb-dog sniffable) n  This cost them 4200 dollars n  Cost of countermeasures and increased cost of business in excess of 10 million dollars 10/5/1329
  30. 30. 10/5/1330 Varieties of Terrorism Council on Foreign Relations n  Nationalist n  Religious – cited as the most dangerous because of lack of limits n  State-sponsored n  Left-wing n  Right-wing n  Anarchist n  Affiliation/Cause
  31. 31. 10/5/1331 Are Terrorists Psychologically Ill? n  “Thirty years of terrorism research has found psychopathology and personality disorder no more likely among terrorists than among non- terrorists from the same back ground” Clark McCauley Co-director of the Solomon Asch Center for Ethnopolitical Conflict
  32. 32. 10/5/1332 Is there a “terrorist personality”? “The idea of a ’terrorist personality’ rests on unsteady empirical, theoretical and conceptual foundations.” -John Horgan in Terrorists, Victims and Society: Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism and Its Consequences, 2003.
  33. 33. From “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism” (Library of Congress, 1999) The appended case study of Ahmed Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing on February 26, 1993, reported here does not suggest that he is schizophrenic or sociopathic. On the contrary, he appears to be a well educated, highly intelligent Islamic terrorist. 10/5/1333
  34. 34. 10/5/1334 Suicide attacks and terrorism n  Zealots in first century, A.D. n  Kamikaze pilots n  1981 Iraqi embassy bombing n  1983 truck bomb in Lebanon kills 300 American and French soldiers n  1993 Suicide attacks begin in Israel n  2001 Suicide attack on WTC
  35. 35. 10/5/1335 Are Suicide Terrorists Psychologically Ill? n  “What is frightening is not the abnormality of those who carry out the suicide attacks, but their sheer normality” - Nasra Hassan (2002)
  36. 36. 10/5/1336 Motivation of Suicide Terrorists n  Perceived injustice/revenge n  Commitment to a cause n  NOT n  Because of depression n  Because driven to self-destruction per se (no reports of suicide in prison by suicide bombers that failed their missions).
  37. 37. 10/5/1337 How do normal people become terrorists? n  Psychology of the cause: Some things are considered more important than life itself n  Increased importance when mortality is faced n  Most commonly cited causes include n  Nationality n  Religion n  Ethnicity n  Family n  Be mindful of differences between individual-based and group-based cultures
  38. 38. 10/5/1338 Psychology of Comrades n  Attachment to group n  Isolation to the group excludes contact with outside groups and their moderating influences n  This leads to adoption and adherence to extreme “in-group” beliefs.
  39. 39. Milgram Experiment 10/5/1339
  40. 40. 10/5/1340 Milgram Experiment n  Experimenter tells Subject (S) to deliver shocks to Actor (A) who is not actually being shocked. n  Actor n  asks to stop n  screams with pain n  pleads to stop n  Says has heart condition n  Stops responding altogether
  41. 41. 10/5/1341 Results of Milgram n  Psychologists wrongly predicted that few would deliver the maximum shock n  65% of subjects administered 450 volts n  No participant delivered fewer than 300 volts n  Compliance was n  Decreased when actors “administering shocks” refused to comply (compliance of 4/40) n  Increased when actors complied (37/40 complied)
  42. 42. 10/5/1342 Stanley Milgram comments: n  “Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”
  43. 43. 10/5/1343 Stanford Prison Experiment n  Zimbardo n  Subjects randomly chosen to be prisoners or guards n  Guards told they must not use physical force, but were otherwise free to run the prison n  Two-week experiment
  44. 44. 10/5/1344 Results of Stanford Prison Experiment n  Guards were cruel and sadistic to prisoners n  Prisoners became depressed and passive with some displaying such emotional distress they had to be removed n  The experiment was terminated after 6 days because of appalling conditions.
  45. 45. 10/5/1345 Conclusions from the Stanford Prison Experiment n  Cruel and even sadistic behavior can be displayed rapidly in certain conditions by apparently normal people. n  Parallels made to Abu Gharib n  Parallels made with indoctrination of terrorists: It is not the person but the indoctrination method and the environment that elicits behaviors. n  Most people refuse to believe that this applies to them.
  46. 46. 10/5/1346 Immediate Reactions to Terrorism n  Panic – not usually n  Tyhurst 1951 n  Impact n  Recoil n  Post-trauma n  Mass Psychogenic Illness n  249/125,800 were exposed to radiation in Brazil n  1/450 needed medical attention after the Sarin attacks in Japan
  47. 47. 10/5/1347 Reactions to Terrorist Scenarios: Before and After and Long After 9-11-2001 n  Alice Healy – University of Colorado n  Experimental Paradigm: n  Undergraduate men and women read scenarios of terrorist attacks on US at both military and civilian sites. n  After each scenario, subjects recommend levels of reaction from ignore it to nuclear attack
  48. 48. 10/5/1348 Reactions to Terrorist Scenarios: Before and After 9-11 n  Results (Both before and after 9-11) n  Both men and women endorse more aggressive responses with each subsequent attack (Think: Syria 2013) n  Both men and women endorse more aggressive response after attack on military versus civilian target n  Men endorse more aggressive responses than women n  Subjects high on masculinity in the Bem SRI endorse more aggressive responses. n  Subjects high on masculinity react to terrorism with anger while those low on masculinity respond with fear.
  49. 49. 10/5/1349 Reactions to Terrorist Scenarios: Before and After 9-11 n  Changes over time n  One year after 9-11 subjects endorsed more aggressive responses to terrorism n  Three years after 9-11 subjects decreased this response to levels about the same as 9-11.
  50. 50. 10/5/1350 Stockholm Syndrome n  Captives develop attraction to and dependency on those that terrorize them n  Development of the syndrome n  Victims are threatened with death n  The victim can’t escape and is dependent upon the terrorist n  Victim is isolated from other frames of reference n  Terrorist is perceived as demonstrating some degree of kindness to the victim
  51. 51. 10/5/1351 Incidence and nature of psychological disorder following the 9-11 Attacks n  More than 85% demonstrated some stress symptoms n  25% developed PTSD n  50% demonstrated depression n  Experiencing a panic attack increased rate of development of PTSD n  Repeated exposure to TV images increased rate of PTSD
  52. 52. 10/5/1352 Rates of development of PTSD were affected by TV viewing Lo Hi You can develop PTSD by symbolic exposure. Below are rates of reported PTSD in those with little (right) and a lot of TV exposure.
  53. 53. 10/5/1353 Incidence of Symptoms following prolonged terrorism n  Al-Aqsa Intifada began in September 2000 n  By April 2002 472 dead and 3846 injured n  Equivalent numbers in the US would be n  21,387 dead n  194,000 injured
  54. 54. 10/5/1354 Effects of prolonged terrorism n  Exposure to terrorism n  16.4% directly exposed n  37.3% with family or friend exposed! n  Incidence of trauma symptoms n  76.7% had one trauma symptom n  Average was 4 symptoms n  9.4% PTSD n  58.6% depressed mood n  Optimism n  Most expressed personal and national optimism n  Most expressed efficacy for coping during an attack
  55. 55. 10/5/1355 Coping during terrorism: What helps n  Find out about safety of loved ones. n  Faith in God n  Seek out support from friends and community n  Distract self from trouble
  56. 56. 10/5/1356 Psychological First Response n  Walk-in centers and crisis hotlines n  Triage at risk n  Current mental illness n  Highest level of exposure n  Lowest Level of Support n  Provide sense of control and comfort n  Have people take active and constructive efforts
  57. 57. 10/5/1357 Reported Increases in Personal Strength Following Terrorist attacks n  Improved relationships n  Improved sense of personal meaning and values n  Improved ability to express emotions

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