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Psychology Of Suicide Bombing As A Terrorism Tactic: A Literature Review On Recruitment, Ideology And Execution

1560 words - 7 pages

The past few decades has seen an alarming rise in the number and scope of targeted suicide bombing attacks worldwide (Grimland, Apter, & Kerkhof, 2006). Besides having the ability to cause many casualties, suicide bombings are extremely difficult to combat. By virtue of their ability to carry out an attack where and when it will cause the most damage, suicide terrorists are extremely likely to succeed (Ganor, 2001). The problem with psychology is that it wants to define concepts, collect empirical data, and build integrative theories all while avoiding the attribution of terrorism to personality disorders (Crenshaw, 2000). This leads to more issues as suicidal behaviour is not easily ...view middle of the document...

Individuals who become suicide bombers, on the other hand, are often unemployed, socially alienated individuals, and have little education. Psychologist Eric Shaw (1986) provides a strong case for what he calls the “Personal Pathway Model” which leads to the recruitment of suicide bombers. The personal pathway model suggests that terrorists come from a very selected, at risk population, who have suffered early damages to their self-esteem. Their subsequent political activities may be consistent with the liberal social philosophies of their families, but go beyond their perception of contradiction in their family’s beliefs and lack of social action. As a group, suicide bombers appear to have been unsuccessful in obtaining a desired traditional place in society, which has contributed to their frustration. The underlying need to belong to a terrorist group is symptomatic of an incomplete or fragmented psychosocial identity. Interestingly, the acts of security forces or police are cited as provoking more violent political activity by these individuals and it is often a personal connection to other terrorists which leads to membership in a violent group. The frustration-aggression hypothesis of violence is very prominent in the literature. This hypothesis is mostly

on relative-deprivation hypothesis developed by Ted Robert Gurr (1970), an expert on violent behaviour, and Joseph Margolin (1977), who propose that much terrorist behaviour is a response to the frustrations of various political, economic, and personal needs and objectives. Other scholars, however, have dismissed this hypothesis as being too simplistic and the fact that frustration does not always lead to aggression. In 1981, Jeanne Knutson suggests that the political terrorist consciously assumes a negative identity, this has been called the negative-identity hypothesis. One of her examples is a Croatian terrorist who, as a member of an oppressed ethnic minority, was disappointed by the failure of his aspiration to attain a university education, and as a result assumed a negative identity by becoming a terrorist. Negative identity involves a vindictive rejection of the role regarded as desirable and proper by an individual’s family and community. In Knutson’s view, terrorists engage in terrorism as a result of feelings of rage and helplessness over the lack of alternatives. Her political science-oriented viewpoint seems to coincide with the frustration-aggression hypothesis. The final theory that is used to explain the features of a potential recruit is narcissism-rage hypothesis. Taking the ‘terrorists-as-mentally-ill’ approach, this hypothesis concerns itself with early psychological development. Simply put, if narcissism in the form of ‘grandiose’ behaviour is not neutralized by reality, the grandiose self creates people who are sociopathic, arrogant, and lacking regard for others. By being involved with a group with a lack of shame in the tactics they use, the new comer can feel...

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