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49 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (2005)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr49 and id is 1 raw text is: 




















The Mind of the Terrorist


A  REVIEW AND CRITIQUE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACHES




JEFF  VICTOROFF
Department of Neurology and Psychiatry
University of Southern California School of Medicine




   This article reviews the state of the art of available theories and data regarding the psychology of terror-
ism. Data and theoretical material were gathered from the world's unclassified literature. Multiple theories
and some demographic data have been published, but very few controlled empirical studies have been con-
ducted investigating the psychological bases of terrorism. The field is largely characterized by theoretical
speculation based on subjective interpretation of anecdotal observations. Moreover, most studies and theo-
ries fail to take into account the great heterogeneity of terrorists. Many practical, conceptual, and psycholog-
ical barriers have slowed progress in this important field. Nonetheless, even at this early stage of terrorism
studies, preliminary reports suggest that modifiable social and psychological factors contribute to the gene-
sis of the terrorist mind-set. Psychological scholarship could possibly mitigate the risk of catastrophic attack
by initiating the long overdue scientific study of terrorist mentalities.


   Keywords:  terrorism; terrorist; psychiatry; psychology; sociology; homeland security




Terrorism   has  surely existed since before the dawn   of recorded history (Merari  and
Friedland  1985). Human nature has not changed. However, three interlocking trends
have  significantly changed  the nature  and  degree of the  threat: the globalization of
commerce,   travel, and information transfer, which puts economic   disparities and ideo-
logical competition  in sharp relief and facilitates cooperative aggression by  far-flung
but like-minded  conspirators;  the ascent of religious fundamentalism   as an aggrieved
competitor  with  the market-economic,   democratic,   and secular trends of modernity;
and  the privatization of weapons  of mass  destruction, putting the potential of macro-
terrorist acts into the hands  of  small groups   or even  individuals (Hoffman 1998;
Laqueur   1999;  Enders  and  Sandler 2000).  September 11,   2001,  is one  result-and
probably  a warning  of events to come   (Gunaratna  2002).  It perhaps would  not be  an
exaggeration   to state that these fast-evolving trends together  constitute a clear and
present danger  to the security of civilization (Stern 1999).



   AUTHOR'S   NOTE:  This work was supported in part by a grant from the Freya Foundation for Brain,
Behavior, and Society. I gratefully acknowledge critical reviews of this manuscript by Jessica Stern and Todd
Sandler. It represents a revision of a lecture first presented at the annual meeting of the American Neuropsy-
chiatric Association, San Diego, California, March 2002. Address reprint requests to victorof@usc.edu.
JOURNAL  OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION,  1ol. 49 No. 1, February 2005 3-42
DOI: 10.1177/0022002704272040
0 2005 Sage Publications

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