Psychological Vulnerabilities and Propensities for Involvement in Violent Extremism



Research on the psychology of terrorism has argued against the idea that most terrorist behavior is caused by mental illness or by a terrorist personality. This article suggests an alternative line of inquiry – an individual psychology of terrorism that explores how otherwise normal mental states and processes, built on characteristic attitudes, dispositions, inclinations, and intentions, might affect a person's propensity for involvement with violent extremist groups and actions. It uses the concepts of “mindset” – a relatively enduring set of attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations – and worldview as the basis of a psychological “climate,” within which various vulnerabilities and propensities shape ideas and behaviors in ways that can increase the person's risk or likelihood of involvement in violent extremism. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.