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What makes a terrorist? . Dr. ADAM DOLNIK Director of Research Programs Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention University of Wollongong Australia [email protected] What motivates terrorists?. Terrorism is product of strategic choice Terrorism is a product of psychological forces.

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what makes a terrorist

What makes a terrorist?

Dr. ADAM DOLNIK

Director of Research Programs

Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention

University of Wollongong

Australia

[email protected]

what motivates terrorists
What motivates terrorists?
  • Terrorism is product of strategic choice
  • Terrorism is a product of psychological forces
limitations of terrorism research
Limitations of terrorism research
  • Lack of a common definition
  • Descriptive / anecdotal
  • Event driven
  • Fire-fighter approach / “Silver bullets”
  • Western bias
  • One sided bias
  • Simple answers / vested interests
  • Enclosed, circular research system
  • Statistics
  • Difficulty in accessing subjects
  • Limits of retrospective accounts
typology of approaches
Typology of Approaches
  • Psychological
  • Physiological
  • Political / Socio-economic
  • Organizational
  • Ideological / Cultural
  • Social network analysis
  • Multi-disciplinary approach
psychological
Psychological
  • Terrorists as mentally ill (“psycho-logic”)
  • Narcissistic rage (splitting/externalization)
  • Airplane hijackers study (expression of illness)
  • Psychiatric research has failed identify any universal idiosyncrasies
  • Terror groups do not desire psychopaths
  • Learning from experience
  • Differences based on level of support & isolation
  • “…the outstanding common characteristic of terrorists is their normality”
physiological
Physiological
  • Just like all mammals, we are aggressive
  • Mechanisms for initiation and regulation of aggression
  • Nurture or nature?
find the cause of conflict on the map
Find the cause of conflict on the map
  • Threat
  • Increased limbic activity
  • Changes in organism
  • Aggressive behavior

Limbic system

regulation of aggression
Regulation of aggression
  • Affective vs. predatory aggression
  • Different source for each type
  • In-group vs. Out-group aggression
  • “Murderer” vs. “Hero”
social economic political
Social / Economic/ Political
  • Terrorists are not born, they are made
  • “Root Causes” (i.e. political oppression, lack of development, democracy, education, sex etc.)
  • (relative) Deprivation-Frustration-Aggression hypothesis
  • Perception of injustice
  • Revenge
  • Role of education?
  • Social distance
  • But why in some contexts and not in others?
process of ideological development
Process of Ideological Development

“It’s not right”

“It’s not fair”

“It’s your fault”

“You are evil”

Stereotype

Perception of deprivation

Inequality and resentment

Blame / Attribution

Demonization/ Dehumanization

Context

Comparison

Attribution

Reaction

organizational
Organizational
  • Terrorism is a group phenomenon
  • Belonging, value re-enforcement, danger, friendships, status
  • “Group Think”

(central authority, invulnerability, excessive risk taking, morality, conformity, ignoring options, moral disengagement, semantics, silence, pressures to act)

  • “Brainwashing” and exploitation
  • With us or against us: the heroes, the enemies and the insignificant
  • “Black and white” vision of the world
who are the terrorists
Who are the terrorists ?
  • Universal profile?

“SOLDIER/POLICEMAN”

  • Universal attributes?

“FRUSTRATION” “VICTIMIZATION”

“HUMILIATION”

“EMPATHY”

“ENEMY”

“EMPOWERMENT”

“CHANGE”

conclusions
Conclusions
  • All approaches have a merit
  • All approaches have weaknesses
  • Combination of circumstances and personality
  • Beware of simplistic generalizations
  • Specificity vs. representativeness
  • Individuals vs. groups
  • Definitional issues
  • Motivations and causes may shift over time
  • “Seeing the world through their eyes”
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