While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him.
(Fyodor Mihailovich Dostoevsky, The Possesse)


Nowadays, people talk and raise concern about terrorism and people scare of terrorism(list of terrorist organisations); however, many people do not understand terrorism’s motivation, and why people become terrorists and how victims cope with their life after experiencing the events. For this reason, I would like to create a blog to give the public general ideas of terrorism. The series will cover topics such as:

REVIEW

Psychology of Terrorism

This is the last post of this series about terrorism. I am going to use this post to explain and review what the series have written in five weeks.


I have stated in my introduction of this series that it will introduce and give people general knowledge about terrorism. In order to know “terrorism” it is necessary to understand terms “terrorism, and terrorist”. This is a very basic knowledge which anyone wants to understand terrorism need to know. Once the one understands this term, he may be able to go further to study more about terrorism. Therefore, the series spent the first post writing “What is terrorism, and who is terrorists?”. Besides, while the scope of this tasking required a focus on psychological factors, form a comprehensive explanation for terrorism. I realized that:


There are many factors at the macro and micro level that affect political violence generally, and terrorism specifically. Indeed, “there is substantial agreement that the psychology of terrorism cannot be considered apart from political, historical, familial, group dynamic, organic, and even purely accidental, coincidental factors” (Freid, 1982). For this reason, I had chosen to write something relevant to the above topics (How and why do people enter, stay in terrorist organizations; Pathway to terrorism…)


Inn addition, while there are other researches which seem to focus almost exclusively in some way on “why” individuals become terrorists or engage in terrorism, the research questions in this realm, informed by a degree of experience, became more focused and more functional. However, social and operational observations of numerous terrorist and extremist groups, suggest that recruitment and involvement typically do not occur in that way. According to Horgan and Taylor (2001) “What we know of actual terrorists suggests that there is rarely a conscious decision made to become a terrorist. Most involvement in terrorism results from gradual exposure and socialisation towards extreme behavior.” Therefore, instead of seeking an answer for the question of “why an individual becomes a terrorist”, the series wants to know the reasons for “why terrorists persist despite the risks involved and the uncertainty of reward” (Crenshaw, 1986). And in the second post “how and why do people enter, stay in terrorist organization”, the study have recognized three factors - injustice, identity, and belonging – which have been found often to co-occur in terrorists and to strongly influence decisions to enter terrorist organizations and to engage in terrorist activity. Moreover, it is an important to know concepts such as “the need to belong, the need to have a stable identity”, which helps explain the similarity in behavior of terrorists in groups of with widely different espoused motivations and composition.


Consequently, as I mentioned above by getting an idea from Freid (1982) “there is substantial agreement that the psychology of terrorism cannot be considered apart from political, historical, familial, group dynamic, organic, and even purely accidental, coincidental factors.” I used my third post to present the process of becoming a terrorist. It supplied models which provided by Hacker and Shaw may suit to explain the path to terrorism of many terrorists.


After third post, I used to plan to spend following post discussing terrorists’ personality. However, after doing some researches, I learnt that there is no terrorists’ personality (Crenshaw, 2001; Borum, 1999; Taylor & Quayle, 1994). Thus, instead of discussing terrorist’s personality, I provided some experts’ ideas about terrorist’s personality. Besides, by looking at an individual’s life experiences, the study found out that certain life experiences tend to be commonly found among terrorists. Histories of childhood abuse and trauma appear to be widespread. And themes of perceived injustice and humiliation often are prominent in terrorist biographies and personal histories. Those factors may be important to understand terrorists, that why study decided to write about.


When researching and writing about terrorism, I realized that terrorism is a very broad subject which this series for many reasons can not cover, for example: ability, time, word limit etc. Therefore, the series chose to write an aspect of subject which has just discussed above. However, my ambitious in this series is also giving public a few ideas about victims of terrorism, especially psychology aspect. Therefore, in week five I have explored some of the psychological affect of terrorism on their victims, especially Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And it also supported information from past incidents, for instance 9/11 US terrorist attack. The research has shown that deliberate violence creates longer lasting mental health effects than natural disasters or accidents. The consequences for both individuals and the community are prolonged, and survivors often feel that injustice has been done to them. This can lead to anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, and a desire for revenge. The post also gave some advices which may help and prevent victims form bad affects of terrorism.


In conclusion, I hope that this series help people more aware of terrorism. And it had given useful information which readers may need to understand more about terrorism.


References:

Horgan, J. and Taylor, M. (2001),The making of a terrorist . Jane's Intelligence Review. 13(12), (pp 16-18)


Crenshaw, M. (1986). The psychology of political terrorism. In M.G. Hermann (Ed.) Political psychology: contemporary problems and issues (pp.379-413). London: Josey-Bass


Fried, R.(1982). The psychology of the terrorist. Jenkins, B. M., Ed. Terrorism and beyond: An international conference on terrorism and low-level conflict (pp. 119-124). Santa Monica, CA: Rand.


Borum, R., Fein, R., Vossekuil, B., & Berglund, J. (1999). Threat assessment: Defining an approach for evaluating risk of targeted violence. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 17(3), (pp 323-337).

the psychology affects of terrorism on Victims

Psychology of TerrorismPsychology of TerrorismPsychology of Terrorism


In previous posts, the study had given the public general ideas about terrorism. However, I also acknowledge that terrorism is very broad topic which this study can not cover all aspects for many reasons such as because of time as well as word limit. I hope that by other sources such as news, TV, and other researches, you may have a better understanding about terrorism. My ambitious in this series is also giving public a few ideas about victims of terrorism, especially psychology aspect.


By watching news people may know about terrorist group’s acts as well as the terroristic feel which they brought to people. To our anguish, terrorism has become one of the most destructive threats to the human condition. The acts of terrorist’s group not only physically harm to human body, but they also affect people’s psychology in short and long term (this study do not discuss the lost of economic, finance and infrastructure which was brought by terrorism). In this post, I am going to explore the psychological affect of terrorism on their victims, especially Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And it would like to support information from past incidents, for instance 9/11 US terrorist attacks.


Terrorism erodes the sense of security and safety people usually feel. This erosion of security is at both the individual level and the community level. Terrorism challenges the natural need of human beings to see the world as predictable, orderly, and controllable.


Waugh (2001) outlines several key components of terrorism such as the use of threat or extraordinary violence, goal- directed, intentional behaviour harm, the intention to psychologically disorganize and horrify not only the immediate victims, but those around them, the choice of victims for their symbolic value (even their innocence).


Given these elements, it is difficult to imagine a terroristic act that would not be considered as traumatic event (Silke, 2003).


Furthermore, there are researches which have shown that deliberate violence creates longer lasting mental health effects than natural disasters or accidents. The consequences for both individuals and the community are prolonged, and survivors often feel that injustice has been done to them. This can lead to anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, and a desire for revenge. Studies have shown that acting on this anger and desire for revenge can increase rather than decrease feelings of anger, guilt, and distress.


Since the 9/11 attacks, there has been an increasing amount of research about how people are affected by terrorism. A consistent finding is that while most individuals exhibit resilience over time, people most directly exposed to terrorist attacks are at higher risk for developing PTSD. PTSD is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which may see from people who have experienced the greatest magnitude of exposure to the traumatic event, such as victims and their families. Problems with anxiety, depression, and substance use are also commonly reported among those with PTSD. Not only affect on members and family, predictors of PTSD include people being closer to the attacks, being injured, or knowing someone who was killed or injured and those who watch more media coverage are also at higher risk for PTSD and associated problems.


This study would like to give some information from 11/9 incident:

  • On September 11, 2001, the United States was forever changed. Following the single largest terrorist attack ever experienced by this country, thousands died or went missing, tens of thousands knew someone who was killed or injured, and many more witnessed or heard about the attack through media sources and by word of mouth. People at all levels of involvement were affected: victims, bereaved family members, friends, rescue workers, emergency medical and mental-health care providers, witnesses to the event, volunteers, members of the media, and people around the world.

  • Research on national samples in the U.S. revealed that 3-5 days afterward the attack 44% of Americans reported at least one symptom of PTSD (Schuster, Stein, et al., 2002). One to two months post-attack, 4% showed probable PTSD nationwide, and prevalence of PTSD in NYC residents was 11% (Schlenger, Caddell, et al., 2002). One study found that in American adults, amount of time watching TV coverage was related to PTSD symptoms ((Schuster, Stein, et al., 2002).

  • Within two months of incident, in the cities attacked prevalence of PTSD was 8% and prevalence of depression was 10% 3. Higher prevalences of PTSD were reported for those closer to the disaster (14-20%) (Galea and Ahern, et al., 2002; Grieger and Fullerton, et al., 2003), and for those actually in the building or injured (30%).

  • Prevalence of PTSD decreased during the 6 months following the disaster (Galea & Vlahov, et al., 2003), however alcohol and substance use remained high (Vlahov & Galea, et al., 2002). Depression was related to alcohol use increase, and along with PTSD was related to increased cigarette and marijuana use. Manhattan residents overall showed significant increase in the use of all three substances (Vlahov & Galea, et al., 2002).


As indicated above, rates of distress and posttraumatic symptoms have been found to be high in individuals studied following terroristic events. Ultimately, reducing the risk of traumatic stress reactions is best accomplished by abolishing trauma in the first place by preventing war, terrorism, and other traumatic stressors. The next approach is to foster resilience and bolster support so that individuals have a better coping capacity prior to and during traumatic stress. If two above options can not be done, third option is the early detection and treatment of traumatized individuals to prevent a prolonged stress response.


Next week is the final post for this series, so I am going to use that post to summarize what this series have done and explain why I wrote about those issues.


References:

Galea, S., Ahern, J., Resnick, H., Kilpatrick, D., Bucuvalas, M., Gold, J., & Vlahov, D. (2002). Psychological sequelae of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. New England Journal of Medicine, Special Report 346, 982-987.

Galea, S., Vlahov, D., Resnick, H., Ahern, J., Susser, E.,Gold, J., Bucuvalas, M. & Kilpatrick, D. (2003). Trends of probable post-traumatic stress disorder in New York City after the September 11 terrorist attacks. American Journal of Epidemiology, 158(6), 514-524.

Grieger, T., Fullerton, C., & Ursano, R. J., (2003). Posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol use, and perceived safety after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Psychiatric Services, 54(10), 1380-1382.

Schlenger, W.,Caddell, J., Ebert, L., Jordan, B.K., Rourke, K., Wilson, D., Thalji, L., Dennis, J.M., Fairbank, J., & Kulka, R. (2002). Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: findings from the National Study of Americans' Reactions to September 11. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(5), 581-588.

Schuster, MA, Stein BD, Jaycox, LH, Collins, RL, Marshall, GN, Elliot, MN, Shou, AJ, Kanouse DE, Morrison, JL and Berry SH (2002). A national survey of stress reactions after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(20), 1507-1512.

Silke, A. (2003). Terrorists, Victims and Society: Psychologycal perspectives on terrorism and its consequences.UK: Wiley.

Vlahov, D., Galea, S., Resnick, H., Ahern, J., Boscarino, J., Bucuvalas, M., Gold, J., & Kilpatrick, D. (2002). Increased use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana among Manhattan, New York, residents after the September 11th terrorist attacks. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155(11), 988-996.

Waugh, W.L., Jr. (2001). Managing terrorism as an environmental hazard. In A. Farazamand (Ed.), Handbook of Crisis energy Managerment, 659-676. Newyork: M. Dekker, Inc.

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Terrorist personality and life experience

Psychology of Terrorism

I stated on last post that I will discuss terrorist’s personality in this post. However, after doing research, I found that many researchers such as Crenshaw (2001), Borum (1999), Taylor & Quayle (1994) explored that there is no terrorist personality, nor is there any accurate profile – psychologically or otherwise – of the terrorist. Moreover, personality traits alone tend not to be very good predictors of behavior. The quest to understand terrorism by studying terrorist personality traits is likely to be an unproductive area for further investigation and inquiry. Therefore, instead of discussing terrorist’s personality in this post, I will supply some experts’ ideas about terrorist’s personality. Besides, last week my post had mentioned that “most involvement in terrorism results from gradual exposure and socialisation towards extreme behavior” (Horgan & Taylor, 2001), thus I will continue to discuss more about this by looking at an individual’s life experiences relevant for understanding terrorism.


First of all, what experts tell about using personality trait to explain terrorist behaviors?

Crenshaw (200), for example, has argued that “shared ideological commitment and group solidarity are much more important determinants of terrorist behavior than individual characteristics.” Bandura seems to agree, as reflected in his more general conclusion that “It requires conducive social conditions rather than monstrous people to produce heinous deeds."


Although the possible existence of a “terrorist personality” holds some intuitive appeal, it lacks of evidential support. Psychologist John Horgan (2003) examined the cumulative research evidence on the search for a terrorist personality, and concluded that “in the context of a scientific study of behavior such attempts to assert the presences of a terrorist personality, or profile, are pitiful.” This appears to be a conclusion of consensus among most researchers who study terrorist behavior. “With a number of exceptions (e.g., Feuer 1969), most observers agree that although latent personality traits can certainly contribute to the decision to turn to violence, there is no single set of psychic attributes that explains terrorist behavior” (McCormick, 2003).


Furthermore, there is the fact that terrorists can assume many different roles – only a few will actually fire the weapon or detonate the bomb. The “personality” of a financier, may be different from that of an administrator or strategist or an assassin. Taylor and Quayle’s research (1994) explored whether some systematic differences might be discerned between those who engage in terrorism and those who do not; yet their search led them to the conclusion that “the active terrorist is not discernibly different in psychological terms from the non-terrorist; in psychological terms, there are no special qualities that characterize the terrorist.”


Just as there is no single terrorist personality or profile, a specific constellation of life experiences is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause terrorism. In previous weeks, I have mentioned many reasons and pathway which lead people to terrorism. And the role of life experience can also be understood as another pathway to terrorism. In the contemporary literature there are three robust experiential themes: Injustice, Abuse, and Humiliation on life experience which may cause to terrorism. They often are so closely connected that it is difficult to separate the effects and contributions of each. By definition, most abuse is unjust. Humiliation often results from extreme forms of abuse.


Field (1979) on her studying about terrorism and the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, where she found “the children there have suffered severe disruption in the development of moral judgment-a cognitive function-and are obsessed with death and destruction about which the feel helpless, and against which they feel isolated and hopeless.” She apparently was not surprised by the findings: “common sense and experience can tell us that people who are badly treated, and/or unjustly punished, will seek revenge. It should be not be surprising, then, that young adolescents, who have themselves been terrorized, become terrorists, and that in a situation where they are afforded social supports by their compatriots reacting against the actions of an unjust government, the resort to terrorist tactics becomes a way of life” (Field, 1979). Moreover, Akhtar (1999) concludes that “evidence does exist that most major players in a terrorist organization are themselves, deeply traumatized individuals. As children, they suffered chronic physical abuse, and profound emotional humiliation. They grew up mistrusting others, loathing passivity, and dreading reoccurrence of a violation of their psychophysical boundaries.”


Inn addition, many researchers and terrorist case histories have noted that periods of imprisonment and incarceration often facilitated experiences of injustice, abuse and humiliation (Ferracuti & Bruno, 1981, della Porta, 1992). Post and colleagues (2003) offer a rich account of the impact of such experiences among the 35 incarcerated middle-eastern terrorists whom they interviewed. They found that “the prison experience was intense, especially for the Islamist terrorists. Thus, the injustice of prison experience also reinforced negative perceptions of terrorist groups.


Taken together, there is no terrorist personality; however certain life experiences tend to be commonly found among terrorists. Histories of childhood abuse and trauma appear to be widespread. And themes of perceived injustice and humiliation often are prominent in terrorist biographies and personal histories.


REFERENCES:

Akhtar, S. (1999). The Psychodynamic Dimension of Terrorism. Psychiatric Annals, 29(6), 350-355.

Borum, R., Fein, R., Vossekuil, B., & Berglund, J. (1999). Threat assessment: Defining an approach for evaluating risk of targeted violence. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 17(3), 323-337.

Crenshaw, M. (2001). The psychology of terrorism: an agenda for the 21st century. Political Psychology, 21, 2, 405-420.

Della Porta, D. (1992). Political Socialization in Left-Wing Underground Organizations: Biographies of Italian and German Militants. D. Della Porta (Ed), Social movements and violence: participation in underground organizations. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI press.

Ferracuti, F., & Bruno, F. (1981). Psychiatric aspects of terrorism in Italy. I. L. Barak-Glantz, & C. R. Huffs (Eds), The mad, the bad, and the different: essays in honor of Simon Dinitz (pp. 199-213). Lexington, MA: Heath.

Field, R. A. (1979). Child terror victims and adult terrorists. Journal of Psychohistory, 7(1), 71-75. Ibid

Horgan, J. (2003). The search for the terrorist personality. Silke, A., Ed. Terrorist, victims, and society: Psychological perspectives on terrorism and its consequence (pp. 3-27). London: John Wiley.

Post, J., Sprinzak, E., & Denny, L. (2003). The terrorists in their own words: Interviews with 35 incarcerated middle eastern terrorists. Terrorism and Political Violence, 15(1), 171-184.

Taylor, M. and Quayle, E. (1994). Terrorist lives. London: Brassey's.