The Psychology of Violent Extremism from Al-Qaeda to the Far Right
by John Horgan
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Pub Date 26 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 03 Apr 2024
What makes a person want to become a terrorist? Who becomes involved in terrorism, and why? In what ways does participating in violent extremism change someone? And how can people become deradicalized?
John Horgan—one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of terrorism—takes readers on a globe-spanning journey into the terrorist mindset. Drawing on groundbreaking personal interviews as well as decades of research from psychologists and others, he traces the pathways that lead people into violent extremism and explores what happens to them as their involvement deepens. Horgan provides an up-to-date, evidence-based understanding of the patterns, motives, and mentalities of violent extremists from the Islamic State and al-Shabaab to white supremacists and incels. He argues that there is not a straightforward psychological profile of a terrorist, in part because of the great variety of today’s extremists, who are able to attract a more diverse pool of recruits than ever before. But even though there is no one-size-fits-all profile, psychological study can provide crucial insight into why and how people become terrorists.
Accessible and nuanced, Terrorist Minds is an essential book for readers interested in what psychology can explain about extremist behavior.
John Horgan is Distinguished University Professor in Georgia State University’s Department of Psychology, where he directs the Violent Extremism Research Group. He is frequently consulted by law enforcement and national security agencies, and he has testified before Congress. His many books include The Psychology of Terrorism (second edition, 2014) and Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland’s Dissident Terrorists (2012).
"Boiling oceans of research into 179 pages of limpid prose, Terrorist Minds represents a major achievement. John Horgan surveys what is already known about the psychology of terrorism: and how in the future we might yet see further and clearer. An inspiring book that wears its immense learning lightly."
--Tim Wilson, University of St Andrews
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