What Drives People to Terrorism? Understanding Terrorism From a Psychological Purview

What Drives People to Terrorism? Understanding Terrorism from a Psychological Purview: Bassam AbdiRashid


Psychologists have been aggregating reliable data on terrorism to determine what drives people to terrorism. The general view is that terrorism is best viewed from a political and group dynamics perspective.

According to DeAngelis, ‘assuaging people's fear of cultural annihilation, highlighting our common humanity or demonstrating the discrepancy between the dream and reality of terrorist involvement could keep would-be terrorists from turning to violence’ (DeAngelis 2009). As such it is critical to investigate the lure to terrorism from a sociological and ideological angle.

In this brief article Strategic Intelligence researcher and analysts Bassam AbdiRashid provides insight and bullet notes on what exactly lures people to terrorism today from a psychological perspective.

The willingness to conduct violence is not entirely pathological as opined in traditional sense rather a coalescence of social and ideological (religious) factors. Each factor plays a key role on an individual’s decision to join a terror group and committing to its cause. Persons likely to join terror groups seek to identify with a specific appeal, either ideological or sociological.

Below are the main psychological factors that influence lure people to terrorism

  1. Feel angry, alienated or disenfranchised.
  2. Believe that their current political involvement does not give them the power to effect real change.
  3. Identify with perceived victims of the social injustice they are fighting.
  4. Feel the need to take action rather than just talking about the problem.
  5. Believe that engaging in violence against the state is not immoral.
  6. Have friends or family sympathetic to the cause.
  7. Believe that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards such as adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity.
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