In Search of Psychological Explanations of Terrorism

Ragnhild B. Lygre and Jarle Eid

in The Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399325
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 In Search of Psychological Explanations of Terrorism

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  • Social Psychology
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The study of psychological factors contributing to terrorism has brought forward a wealth of models and theories on why people get involved in terrorism. Even though the scholarly literature on this subject has been multiplied over the last decade, there is still little, if any consensus, on what psychological factors are necessary or sufficient to explain terrorism. Some scientists emphasize factors in the individual, while others emphasize how factors in society and in groups could lead to terrorism. While many of the earlier models focused on personality traits and psychopathology, more recent models and theories emphasize terrorism as a process, where interactions between individuals, groups, and society play a vital role. Terrorism is a complicated phenomenon to study, and research on the subject suffers from many practical and methodological difficulties. Our hope is that this chapter can give a brief overview of the main research topics and questions of the vast field dealing with psychological factors contributing to terrorism.

Keywords: terrorism; psychological theories; individual-oriented; social psychological; process

Article.  11009 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Organizational Psychology

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