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Psychological and Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists (Essay Sample)


This was a midterm assignment, to write a college level research paper describing the psychological and behavioral factors of individual terrorists (i.e. recruits and suicide bombers; not terrorist leaders such as Bin Laden). I addressed the different radicalization processes/models such as Moghaddam’s Staircase.


Psychological and Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists
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Psychological and Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists
Terrorism is a plaque from which no country is immune. Its impacts have long-lasting impacts on society. Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have long-term effects if it continues to hit a particular country. Terrorism aims to create fear and insecurity among people. It also develops an aspect that governmental authorities are no longer able to safeguard the people they lead. It leaves people with terrors and severe emotional effects that affect them throughout their lives. Additionally, with the constant fear of terrorist attacks, people change their behaviors and habit. They begin to be passive in the event of terrorist attacks because they always keep back in their mind the possibilities that a terrorist attack could take place at any time. Many companies are forced to relocate their business, monitor staff based on their religious background, and take massive measures to affect their diplomacy. Over the previous years, terrorists killed approximately 25,000 people across the world every year. The global death toll from terrorist attacks over the past years ranges from 7,000 in 2016 to a high of 35,000 in 2020. In 2017, terrorist attacks were accountable for 0.06% of worldwide deaths. Terrorists tend to be geographical-based because, in 2017, more than 90% of death took place in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa (Strang, 2019). In most nations, terrorism accounts for about 0.001% of death, but it can be as much as several figures in a country with a high level of disputes. Public concern about terrorism is high, and it is highly publicized in the media. The drive among young individuals to join terrorist organizations has become stronger and stronger each day. Suicide bombers and recruits are given the assumption that terrorism is the solution for political changes and purposes. However, these individuals' terrorists have unique behavioral and psychological factors that drive them into terrorism.
Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists
People usually are recruited into armed groups to some extent; they exercise some control before joining such organizations. They are some behavioral factors that contribute to the decision. It is commonly assumed that negative emotions such as anger and hatred are primary motivations. Many studies have found that a person has positive and prosocial motivations for joining terrorist organizations. Other academic and advocacy literature has found that revenge is also sometimes a form of motivation.
The fundamental behavioral factor that drives individual terrorists to join the terrorist organization is the need to belong. People are social beings. They continuously seek opportunities to connect with other individuals and an essential requirement to belong to a meaningful group. This dimension is when individuals feel bad or uncertain about their individual identity and where they fit in the society or face issues surrounding personal mortality. Youth, especially during adolescence, struggle with identities, what they need out of their lives, and where they belong. Terrorist groups that offer a ready-made society, identity, and the chance to be part of the cause can be fundamentally attractive to young individuals. This variable is often valid in an uncertain and dangerous dimension where terrorist organizations offer some sense of order and human connections.
Quest for significance is a vital behavioral aspect that contributes to individual terrorists joining extremist groups. Individuals have a desire to feel a sense of meaning in their lives. They desire to matter in society and feel respect, especially when they have been constantly humiliated or deprived or anticipate the loss of importance. Numerous terrorist groups have exploited feelings of humiliation and frustration, and they provide the recruits with a sense of significance. It is their unique strategy of communication during the recruitment of young people.
Peer network is another behavioral factor that acts as a motivation to join terrorist organizations. The aspect has a significant influence on behavior because it serves as role models that signal social norms. When it is reinforced with the need to belong, the behavioral impact of norms within peer groups is powerful. The evidence demonstrates that young individuals are primarily prone to peer influence, including pressure to engage in antisocial acts (Desmarais et al., 2017). Comprehending per influence is essential for considering youth trajectories into terrorist groups. Youth are more likely to join these organizations if their friends or family members are already in such groups. Several case reports found that more than 75% of Muslim diaspora communities such as Europe join Al-Qaida or the Islamic States because friends or relatives brought them in. For example, Samir Mir, who is wanted due to alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, claimed that he conspired to commit an attack with his friends against a particular newspaper in Denmark. With friends' support, he has committed numerous crimes such as killing a citizen outside the United States, bombing public use areas and directing attacks. While peer groups can be vital to comprehend why people become associated with terrorist groups, they potentially have a duty to stop young people and support them after leaving terror groups, particularly in offering essential mental support.
A sense of bucking authority drives many people to terror groups. Joining a terrorist organization, in numerous instances, appeals to individuals because it offers them a sense of presence and an opportunity to exercise their autonomy. People, especially young individuals, often rebel against their family and authorities, and they feel like they are being denied personal agency, making them buck traditional authority to assert themselves. If a person feels like they are not given a maximum sense of control in their homes, they become more prone to terrorist organizations as a way of exercising their independence. Some studies about cross-cultural relevance argue that there are many possibilities that this impulse may be more evident in people brought up with Western, developed nations than in other areas. It is evident from the IS-controlled region suggests that the organization is trying to capitalize on domestic discords and motivate people to rebel against family members or law enforcement officers by joining the terror enterprise.
Another fundamental influence towards joining terror groups is social media. It has become the most significant part of people's lives. Social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have become a place for recruitments. There have been numerous stories about how terrorists use these platforms to promote radicalization. They used to make threats and call out members to register on the organizations. Continual exposure to violence has dangerous impacts on people. Meta-analysis studies found that unhealthy impacts of media violence have demonstrated that youth will develop antisocial behaviors such as imitating extremist behaviors to terrorists (Horgan et al., 2018). They will be an increased emotion of hostility and desensitization towards violent behaviors. People will think that extremist behaviors are acceptable in society until they find themselves in terrorist organizations. Constant exposure to negative media influence will make young individuals utilize violence to solve their issues. This factor is partially attributed to what they view, who they are around because people learn their social skills from the environment.
Psychological Factors of Individual Terrorists
A fundamental psychological factor among individual terrorists is impulsiveness. While people are often intelligent and logical, sometimes, one may find it hard to inhibit impulsive responses. This is primarily the case when a person is in the presence of friends. Webber and Kruglanski (2018) suggest that when a person is in their friends' presence, they are immediately sensitive to immediate presence rewards. Therefore, in such situations, a person is more likely to make risky choices that entail short-term gains than the safe alternative that offers gains accrued in an extended period. The peer-driven impulsivity for dangerous acts could significantly force a person to join a terrorist organization, which becomes hard to leave later.
Depression is a vital factor that makes people join terror groups. Suicide bombers and recruits do not fear any form of death due to underlying mental illness. An example broadly covered in numerous studies is a terrorist crime that occurs when a person kills several people then commits suicide. The research found that individuals diagnosed with depression are roughly three times to join criminal organizations than the general public. Sometimes depression is not a contributing factor alone but is more often combined with other risk factors such as alcohol and substance abuse. The drugs make a person vulnerable to manipulation to feel safe and sense of belonging when in a group of people with similar problems. Another risk factor on the same is bipolar disorder. In a recent study, individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder have

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