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The U.S. Army Asymmetric

Warfare Group

September 2010

Relevant Psychological and Sociological Concepts

U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group 2282 Morrison St., Ste. 5355 • Ft. Meade, MD 20755-5355 AWG CUOPS [email protected] AWG Portal https://portal.awg.army.mil

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RADICALIZATION: RELEVANT PSYCHOLOGICAL AND

SOCIOLOGICAL CONCEPTS

SEPTEMBER 2010

CHUCK CROSSETT and JASON A. SPITALETTA

THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY

Radicalization: Relevant Psychological and Sociological Concepts

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Radicalization is the process by which an individual, group, or mass of people undergo a transformation from participating in the political process via legal means to the use or support of violence for political purposes (radicalism). Radicalism includes specific forms, such as terrorism, which is violence against the innocent bystander, or insurgency, which is violence against the state. It does not include legal and/or nonviolent political protest, such as protest that is more properly called activism.

This paper is a basic reference guide for the military. It provides a summary of main ideas and trends in the psychological and sociological literature as they pertain to the process of radicalization and to the roots and context of radicalism as they pertain to the participants. It is meant to be a general read, understandable to the nonacademic, with many recommendations for further reading. It is also meant to be fairly broad and complete, but with the recognition that the topic is new and evolving, with new threads constantly emerging. The paper is also relegated to the prevailing or fairly well- studied theories and mechanisms.

There are sixteen theories that have been proposed to explain the underlying cause of radicalization. They range from explanations due to societal and economic pressures, social and group dynamics, development of identity, antisocial disorders, and even specific cognitive processes involved in the decision to commit violence. There is no single explanation as to why certain individuals or groups move to violent political action. Examples are provided to demonstrate that diverse reasons are applicable across the spectrum of radical groups and terrorists, and also to show that there are usually multiple reasons operating for the radicals themselves. A single theory cannot explain all radicals, and rarely can it explain even a single one to satisfaction. However, understanding the multiple theorized causes helps us understand motivations, behaviors, and worldview of this population much more so than a simplistic view that they must be irrational actors with clinical psychological problems. The literature is fairly agreed upon this: The terrorist or radical rarely meets the definition of a psychopath.

The theories are explained both in their general state and in how they are applied to the specific subject of radicalism. Those theories that have clinical definitions or methods of assessment have a short section on those subjects.

• Relative deprivation theory • Social network theory • Social movement theory • Symbolic interactionism • Group dynamic theory • Social learning theory • Social identity theory • Terror management theory

• Uncertainty reduction theory • Identity theory • Narcissism theory • Paranoia theory • Absolutist/apocalyptic theory • Antisocial theory • Novelty-seeking theory • Humiliation-revenge theory

Along with the possible underlying causal theories, twelve mechanisms are used to explain the means by which a crowd, group, or individual psychologically undergoes the process of radicalization. These mechanisms elucidate the motivations and processes by which any of these types (crowd, group, or person) move from nonviolence to violence (and beyond to suicide, use of terror, etc.). They include the pivoting off an overreaction by the state power, to the narrative of

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martyrdom, to intragroup competition, to the internalization of a political grievance. In each case, an illustrative example is given from the real world, from Timothy McVeigh to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), to show how these means allowed the radical to move from legal behavior to violent acts. Again, single mechanisms are not enough to explain the full complexity of the 30+-year campaign of the PIRA. But they help the reader associate the means with the outcome. The twelve mechanisms are:

• Mass radicalization in conflict with an out-group – jujitsu politics

• Mass radicalization in conflict with an out-group – hate

• Mass radicalization in conflict with an out-group – martyrdom

• Group radicalization by like-minded groups

• Group radicalization under isolation and threat

• Group radicalization in competition for the same base of support

• Group radicalization in competition with state power – condensation

• Group radicalization by within-group competition – fissioning

• Individual radicalization by personal grievance

• Individual radicalization by political grievance

• Individual radicalization by self-persuasion in action – the slippery slope

• Individual radicalization by joining a radical group – the power of love

Within each mechanism, potential observed behaviors or operations can be derived to show how this process would present itself to those charged with circumvention, prevention, or defense against radicalism. Mostly these observables have been proposed and are not yet empirically proven or verified. When possible, the veracity of the claimed observable has been stated.

There are programs established in certain countries that attempt to disengage or “deradicalize” individuals. These programs are few in number and most do not, to our knowledge, undertake a scientific research program to assess their success or failure. Disengagement programs, in which the focus is to get the individual to stop their participation in radical activities rather than to abandon their ideological agreement with the group or movement, are far more common. This assumes that the decision to disengage is rarely attributable to ideological reasons (the same applies to entry into the radical movement, interestingly) and that cessation of violent behavior is easier than re- programming of ideology. Re-establishing a beneficial social network, such as re-establishing familial ties or finding the radical a wife is a familiar tactic in these programs, as well as providing amnesty or assistance in finding employment.

The theories and mechanisms are good background material for the reader interested in counter- radical application, but we have also identified sixteen “risk factors” within the literature. Not all of these factors have been experimentally derived or are empirically based. They do, however, merit the attention of the reader due to their importance in the establishment of any counter-radical program or process.

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The sixteen risk factors are:

• Emotional vulnerability

• Dissatisfaction with the status quo of political activism

• Personal connection to a grievance

• Positive (or at least non-negative) view of violence

• Perceived benefit of political violence

• Social networks

• In-group de-legitimization of the out-group

• Views on (and histories of) violence

• Resources

• External support

• Perceived threat

• Conflict

• Humiliation

• Competition

• Youth

• Resonant narrative

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Purpose of the Study .................................................................................................................. 9

Primer on Radicalization ......................................................................................................... 10

Social and Behavioral Science Concepts Relevant to the Study of Radicalization ................. 13 Sociological Theories ........................................................................................................................................................ 13

Relative Deprivation Theory ...................................................................................................................................... 14 Social Network Theory ............................................................................................................................................... 16 Social Movement Theory ............................................................................................................................................ 17 Symbolic Interactionism ............................................................................................................................................. 19

Psychological Theories ..................................................................................................................................................... 21 Social Psychology Theories ............................................................................................................................................. 22

Group Dynamic Theory ............................................................................................................................................. 22 Social Learning Theory ............................................................................................................................................... 24 Terror Management Theory ....................................................................................................................................... 27 Uncertainty Reduction Theory .................................................................................................................................. 28

Psychoanalytic Theories ................................................................................................................................................... 29 Identity Theory ............................................................................................................................................................. 30 Narcissism Theory ....................................................................................................................................................... 31 Paranoia Theory ........................................................................................................................................................... 33 Absolutist/Apocalyptic Theory ................................................................................................................................. 34 Antisocial Theory ......................................................................................................................................................... 35

Cognitive Theories ............................................................................................................................................................ 36 Novelty-Seeking Theory ............................................................................................................................................. 37 Humiliation-Revenge Theory ..................................................................................................................................... 37

Mechanisms of Radicalization ................................................................................................ 39 Mass Mechanisms ............................................................................................................................................................. 39

Mass Radicalization in Conflict with an Out-group – Jujitsu Politics ................................................................. 40 Mass Radicalization in Conflict with an Out-group – Hate .................................................................................. 42 Mass Radicalization in Conflict with an Out-group – Martyrdom ...................................................................... 45

Group Mechanisms .......................................................................................................................................................... 47 Group Radicalization in Like-Minded Groups ....................................................................................................... 48 Group Radicalization under Isolation and Threat .................................................................................................. 51 Group Radicalization in Competition for the Same Base of Support ................................................................. 54 Group Radicalization in Competition with State Power – Condensation .......................................................... 56 Group Radicalization in Within-Group Competition – Fissioning ..................................................................... 58

Individual Mechanisms .................................................................................................................................................... 60 Individual Radicalization by Personal Grievance ................................................................................................... 61 Individual Radicalization by Political Grievance..................................................................................................... 63 Individual Radicalization by Self Persuasion in Action – the Slippery Slope ..................................................... 66 Individual Radicalization by Joining a Radical Group – the Power of Love ..................................................... 68

Deradicalization ...................................................................................................................... 70

Conclusion ............................................................................................................................... 72

Recommendations for Future Research ................................................................................. 78

References ................................................................................................................................ 79

Appendix: DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Selected Mental Disorders ............................................. 87

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PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

This paper provides a basic reference guide to the current psychological and sociological theories and hypotheses on the topic of radicalization. It is meant to provide a general summary of the state of disciplinary thought from the two fields by distilling refereed scholarship from the last few decades.

This paper is primarily intended for those in the military engaged in operational or analytical functions, but it can also be useful to those in law enforcement, intelligence, or policy analysis. It aims for a balance between preserving the original social-science terminology and allowing for easy reading by those unfamiliar with the literature. The information herein is not meant to be a complete and unabridged explanation of the theories or mechanisms that impact the process of radicalization, but we have endeavored to suggest further readings for every topic to which the reader may turn for additional detail.

The first section provides a short description of the domain of radicalization to familiarize the reader with the concept and places the main subject of the paper into context. The two main sections follow, the first being a summary of the relevant sociological and psychological theories that have been proposed to have some effect on the process of radicalization or on the internal and external conditions that relate to an individual, group, or mass movement being radicalized. Then mechanisms are defined that are thought to impact either the process or surrounding conditions during the radicalization process. For each mechanism, a real-world example is given to allow the reader to understand how a social scientist might explain the motivations and means of the radical. A short section describing known concepts and programs of “deradicalization” follows. The conclusion is meant to summarize the important findings and trends that were gleaned from the citations.

In the interest of the military reader, for each mechanism, we have made every effort to provide those factors, behaviors, or other observable traits that have been collected from the disciplinary literature. We want this paper to be a bridge between the researcher and those that bear the burden of defending, preventing, or circumventing the radical from achieving their aims through violence.

This research was funded by the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare and conducted by the National Security Analysis Department at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Any opinions expressed within are solely those of the authors and do not denote the official positions of the U.S. Army or the Applied Physics Laboratory.

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PRIMER ON RADICALIZATION

Radicalization is the process by which an individual, group, or mass of people undergo a transformation from participating in the political process via legal means to the use or support of violence for political purposes (radicalism). Although the decision to move from one side of legality to another (or from peaceful acts to the use of violence) may seem a simple cognitive choice, the impact of psychological factors, social networks, information availability, and the physical environmental have all been seen to impinge upon that decision. Often, the decision is made incrementally, as part of a process whereby actions, decisions, and behaviors move toward the more illegal or violent. At other times, the decision to cross the line between activism and radicalism is abrupt, decisive, and emotionally jarring.

For the purposes of this study, we have removed the types of political action that are legal and/or nonviolent in nature. These types of action can be described as “activism” in opposition to radicalism (Moskalenko & McCauley, 2009). Specifically, we use radicalism to mean the use (or support of the use) of violence toward political ends, because the legality of the action is dependent upon the local legal statutes. These legal strictures may actually be a means by which the government is trying to counter a growing political movement, such as when the Polish government decided to outlaw the Solidarity movement in the 1980s, driving the labor union to become an underground protest organization. Although they conducted illegal activities, the Solidarity union would not fit our definition for a radical movement because they did not routinely or purposefully engage in violent opposition to the government. They engaged in illegal activism in their desire to reform the communist regime.

For the purposes of our study, terrorism is considered to be a subset of radicalism. It is the use of premeditated violence against noncombatant targets with the intent of influencing the population or government to capitulate.

There is, therefore, an entire spectrum of operations and support activities across radicalism and activism from which individuals and groups may choose. The extreme end is the pursuit of violent operations, such as suicide bombings, sniping, armed assaults, and so forth. These obviously fall within the domain of radicalism, but operations that support violence, such as the collection of intelligence for the purpose of targeting and the construction or emplacement of a bomb, also fall on the side of radicalism. Operations that fall within “activism” for our purposes include demonstrations and the transportation of personnel or materiel not related to violent operations. Support through donations, open sympathizing, or even voting for a party associated with a cause fall even further on the activist side.

This decision to use these options as a means of expressing their political opinion is influenced by many factors, some of which are expressly studied in this paper, and by other factors that fall outside the domain of psychology and sociology but are important to understand as part of the process. This study devotes its attention to both the internal and social external factors that impinge upon the decision to act, or the process by which an individual or group moves from the activist side of the spectrum to the more violent side.

The first question that comes to mind when viewing the political action process as such a spectrum is whether or not radicalism starts always at the activist end and moves, gradually or precipitously, to violence. Studies by Moskalenko and McCauley (2009) conclude that it is far more prevalent for an individual to be firmly disposed toward either an activist mindset or a mindset in which the

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acceptability of violence toward certain goals can be allowed, rather than it being a full spectrum of choice for the individual. People seem to either be comfortable with violence from the start and, if not, they are rarely likely to ever move toward finding violence an acceptable alternative.0F1 Certainly there are numerous cases in which personal tragedy, horrific or monumental events that cause moral outrage, or even social conditioning can lead nonviolent people to commit to acts (or lives) of violence. But this is comparatively rare; the jump from activist to radical mindset is a far one for most people. Therefore it is this small collection of individuals, those that inherently see violence as an acceptable means to certain ends as well as those that come to that conclusion through external or internal processes, to which we turn our interest.

The second question that presents itself is how that process of becoming a radical, or being “radicalized,” occurs. A number of stages have been proposed, including a four-step model by the law enforcement community (Silber, 2010) that includes pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization. Others (Horgan, 2008b) add further stages beyond becoming a full radical, incorporating stages for remaining involved, or disengaging, or even de-radicalizing. Importantly, Horgan stresses that both his and other proposed stages of radicalization are not necessarily sequential or even necessary in all cases. One may progress through all of them or a certain number of them, go through some in parallel, or even skip some. Therefore the problem of “tracing” a normative path by which a radical is created is made nearly moot by the path’s dependence on internal psychology, social conditions, and information and physical resource availability.

There are four domains in which the decision to commit violence resides. Each are discussed at least in part in this study, but primarily from the internal psychological impact or sociological impact upon the decision. First, the decision is greatly impacted by the psychological disposition and state of the individual (or group). As stated before, some individuals come with a predilection to the use of violence as an acceptable means toward an end. Coupled with that is the sympathy or affinity with the cause being promoted within the radical context. If the sympathy value is high, that person is more likely to see the utilitarian side of the radical path. Last is the conditioned fear of the consequences, which is promoted by external events, and accumulated and interpreted by the individual. If a person sees others (or hears of others) getting away without punishment for violent acts, one’s fear of consequences may lessen their general aversion to the use of violence.

The social domain is highly important to the radicalization process, as the influence of friends, family, and associates can highly impact a decision to pursue the radical path or avert oneself from it. Social networks are discussed in depth in this study. One must also consider the impact of alternative paths available in more nonradical social groups, however, for they can either allow people to support a radical cause or movement without the expenditure of as much moral or social capital as joining the movement, or they may provide an alternative to the radical cause. For the former, the ability of a Northern Irish Catholic to support and be involved with the Sinn Fein political party allowed them to support the cause without committing fully to the violent intentions or operations of the Irish Republican Army. For the latter case, however, the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent social movement was a large drain on the support and popularity of the violent-leaning Black Panther Party. American blacks opted to support the more peaceful group in their effort to transform the political landscape (Levine, 1973).

1 Saucier et al (2010) have developed an "extremist mindset" from factor analysis of thousands of pieces of radical literature. Although the assessment has not been empirically validated against a radicalized population, it may be a valuable component to include in primary research to help determine the relative extremism of radical groups and/or their parent populations.

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The information domain and its impact on the radicalization process will be less visible in this paper, but the ready availability of information, including ideological narratives and success stories and even the presence of tactics, techniques, and procedures, can have a vast influence upon the cognitive process by which one determines violence is profitable. Lastly, the physical environment, including one’s sense of security, the availability and presence of ready-made targets for violence, and the availability of resources and materiel all factor into the decision as to whether to pursue violence.

Another fact becomes increasingly clear during the study of worldwide radicalization and the history of violent opposition. Geography and economics do not play a decisively predictive role in determining where radicalism arises or thrives. World history has been full of resistance and revolutionary movements in all areas. There are marked organizational, operational, and functional similarities between current-day Islamic fundamentalist groups promoting the idea of jihad and the communist revolutionary groups from the 1960s and many others. There is a current trend away from the socioeconomic narrative of class-struggle as a motivating factor, and a marked rise in movements pulling on traditionalist/fundamentalist narratives, but many radical groups still exist that coalesce around opposition to and the influence of foreign country (whether military presence or cultural influences) or around centuries-old ethnic divisions and hatred. Some socioeconomic reform groups still operate around the world, including those that desire a more reformist-modernist direction (Crossett, 2010). In short, revolution, radicalism, and violence for political means are still worldwide phenomena, and likely always will be.

Suggested further reading on this topic: Crossett, C. (Ed.) (in press). Casebook on insurgency and revolutionary warfare, Volume II, 1962–2009.

Horgan, J. (2008). From profiles to pathways and roots to routes: Perspectives from psychology on radicalization into terrorism. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 618, 80–94.

Levine, D. U., et al., (Winter 1973). Differences between black youth who support the Black Panthers and the NAACP. The Journal of Negro Education, 42, 19–32.

Moskalenko, S., & McCauley, C. (2009). Measuring political mobilization: The distinction between activism and radicalism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 21, 239–260.

Silber, M. (2010). Radicalization in the West revisited: confirming the threat [Briefing]. New York Police Department.

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SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE CONCEPTS RELEVANT TO THE STUDY OF RADICALIZATION

Social-science studies of the underlying causes of radicalization have focused on three main areas: 1) the political, economic, and social conditions that correlate to increased incidences of politically motivated violence, 2) …