Terrorism and Extremism

Terrorism and violent extremism, whether domestic or international are among the major threats to security and stability. Although the different social sciences, economics, sociology, and political science have contributed to the study of violent extremism, the crux of the matter is psychological. It is the person, after all, that decides to pick up a weapon, don a suicide belt and risk life for a cause. What motivation prompts individuals to become violent extremists? What is the role of ideology in their radicalization? How do people’s networks of family and friends, contribute to the process? 


Papers and book chapters in this section address these questions and propose theoretical models and empirical findings that illuminate radicalization and the making of a terrorist.  We also show that violent extremism is one type of extreme human behavior.  Extremism include among others addictions, extreme sports, or extreme diets. What may be most surprising is that these diverse types of extremism share a common underlying psychological process. The same process that can drive a person to become a “sinner”,  a violent terrorist, can drive them to become a “saint” and a committed humanitarian. 

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Kruglanski, A.W., Szumowska, E. & Kopetz. C.E. (in press). The call of the wild: How extremism happens. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Jasko, K, Webber, D. Molinario, E. & Kruglanski, A.W. (in press). Ideological Extremism among Syrian Refugees Is Negatively Related to Intentions to Migrate to the West. Psychological Science. 


Kruglanski, A.W. & Ellenberg, M. (in press). The Quest for personal significance and ideological violence: A comment on Wortman, Yoder, & Decety (2020). AJOB Neuroscience.


Kruglanski, A.W., Gunaratna, R., Ellenberg, M. & Speckhard, A. (2020), Terrorism in the time of pandemic: Exploiting mayhem. Global Security: Health, Science and PolicyPDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Szumowska, E., Kopetz, C., Vallerand, R.J., & Pierro, A. (2020). On the psychology of extremism: How motivational imbalance breeds intemperance. Psychological ReviewPDF

Webber, D., Kruglanski, A., Molinario, E., Jasko, K. (2020). Ideologies that justify terrorism and political violence. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 34, 107–111. PDF

Jasko, K., Webber, D., Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M., Taufiqurrohman, M., Hettiarachchi, M., & Gunaratna, R. (2019). Social context moderates the effects of quest for significance on violent extremism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(6), 1165–118. PDF

Kruglanski, A. W., Fernandez, J. R., Factor, A. R., & Szumowska, E. (2019). Cognitive mechanisms in violent extremism. Cognition, 188, 116-123. PDF

Kruglanski, A. W. (2019). My road to violent extremism (as its researcher, that  is…). Perspectives on psychological science, 14(1), 49-53. PDF

Kruglanski, A. W. (2018). Violent radicalism and the psychology of prepossession. Social Psychological Bulletin, 13(4), 1-18. PDF

Kruglanski, A., Jasko, K., Webber, D., Chernikova, M., & Molinario, E. (2018). The making of violent extremists. Review of General Psychology, 22(1), 107-120. PDF

Webber, D., Babush, M., Schori-Eyal, N., Vazeou-Nieuwenhuis, A., Hettiarachchi, M.,  Bélanger, J. J., ... & Gelfand, M. J. (2018). The road to extremism: Field and  experimental evidence that significance loss-induced need for closure fosters radicalization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(2), 270-285. PDF

Webber, D., Chernikova, M., Kruglanski, A.W., Gelfand, M.J., Hettiarachchi, M.,  Gunaratna, R., Lafreniere, M.A., Belanger, J.J. (2017). Deradicalizing Detained Terrorists. Political PsychologyPDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Jasko, K., Chernikova, M., Webber, D., & Dugas, M.A. (2017). To the fringe and back: Violent extremism and the psychology of deviance. American Psychologist, 72(3), 217-230. PDF

Webber, D., Klein, K., Kruglanski, A., Brizi, A., & Merari, A. (2017). Divergent paths to martyrdom and significance among suicide attackers. Terrorism and Political Violence, 29(5), 852-874. PDF

Cohen, S. J., Kruglanski, A., Gelfand, M. J., Webber, D., & Gunaratna, R. (2016). Al Qaeda’s propaganda decoded: A psycholinguistic system for detecting variations in terrorism ideology. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1-30. PDF

Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Sheveland, A., Babush, M., Hetiarachchi, M., Ng  Bonto, M., & Gunaratna, R. (2016). What a difference two years make: Patterns of  radicalization in a Philippine jail. Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 9(1-3), 13-36. PDF

Sharvit, K., Kruglanski, A. W., Wang, M., Sheveland, A., Ganor, B., & Azani, E. (2015). Palestinian public opinion and terrorism: A two-way street?. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, 10(2), 71-87. PDF

Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Bélanger, J. J., Sheveland, A., Hetiarachchi, M., &  Gunaratna, R. (2014). The psychology of radicalization and deradicalization: How significance quest impacts violent extremism. Political Psychology, 35(S1), 69-93. PDF

Orehek, E., Sasota, J. A., Kruglanski, A. W., Dechesne, M., & Ridgeway, L. (2014).  Interdependent self-construals mitigate the fear of death and augment the willingness to become a martyr. Journal of personality and social psychology, 107(2), 265. PDF

Sensales, G., Areni, A., Boyatzi, L., Dal Secco, A., & Kruglanski, A. (2014). Perceived impact of terrorism and the role of the media: representations by Italian citizens differing in political orientation and need for closure. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and  Political Aggression, 6(1), 41-57. PDF

Sharvit, K., Kruglanski, A. W., Wang, M., Chen, X., M. Boyatzi, L., Ganor, B., & Azani, E. (2013). The effects of Israeli use of coercive and conciliatory tactics on Palestinian's use of terrorist tactics: 2000–2006. Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 6(1-3), 22-44. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W. (2013). Psychological insights into Indonesian Islamic terrorism: The what, the how, and the why of violent extremism. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 16, 112-116. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Belanger, J., Gelfand, M.G., Gunaratna, R., Hetiarrachchi, M., Reinares, F. Orehek, E.A., Sasota, J. & Sharvit, K. (2013). Terrorism, A (Self) Love-Story: Redirecting the Significance-Quest Can End Violence. American Psychologist, 68, 559-575. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Chen, X; Dechesne, M., Fishman, S., & Orehek, E. & (2009). Fully committed: Suicide Bombers’ Motivation and the Quest for Personal Significance. Political Psychology, 30, 331-357. (target article for peer commentary). PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Chen, X., Dechesne, M., Orehek, E. & Fishman, S. (2009). Yes, No, and Maybe in the World of Terrorism Research: Reflections on the Commentaries. Political Psychology, 30, 401-417. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., & Fishman, S. (2009). What makes terrorism tick? Its individual, group and organizational aspects. Rivista de Psicologia Social, 24, 139-162. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., & Fishman, S. (2009). Psychological factors in terrorism and counterterrorism: Individual, group and organizational levels of analysis. Social Issues Policy Review, 3 (1), 1-44. PDF

De la Corte Ibanez, L., Kruglanski, A., de Miguel Calvo, J.M., & Sabucedo, J.M.& Diaz, D. (2008). Seven psychosocial principles that explain terrorism. Psychology in Spain, 12, 70-80. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Crenshaw, M., Post, J.M. & Victorof, J. (2008). Talking about terrorism. Scientific American: Mind, 58-65. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., & Fishman, S., (2008). Psychological underpinnings of terrorism: The individual, the group and the organization. Psucologia Sociale, 3, 197-223.

De la Corte Ibanez, L., Kruglanski, A., De Miguel Calvo, J.M., & Sabucedo, J.M. (2007). Siete Principios Sociales Para Explicar el Terrorismo (Seven Social Principles that Explain Terrorism). Psichothema, 19, 366-374. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W., Crenshaw, M, Post, G. & Victoroff, J. (2007). What should this fight be called? Metaphors of counterterrorism and their implications. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 8, 97-133. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W. (2006). Inside the terrorist mind: The relevance of ideology. Estudios di Psicologia, 27, 1-7. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W. (2006). The minds of terrorists and their organizations (A review of John Horgan’s: The Psychology of Terrorism). Democracy and Security, 2, 163-168. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W. & Fishman, S. (2006). The Psychology of Terrorism: Syndrome versus Tool Perspectives. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18, 193-215. PDF

Kruglanski, A.W. & Fishman, S. (2006). Terrorism Between Syndrome and Tool. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 45-58. PDF

Book Chapters in Edited Books

Kruglanski, A.W., Gelfand, M.J., Belanger, J., Gunaratna, R., & Hettiarachchi, M. (2014). Deradicalizing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE): Some preliminary findings. In A. Silke (Ed.) Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism: Critical Issues in Management, Radicalization and Reform. London: Routledge. Link

 Kruglanski, A.W., Gelfand, M. & Gunaratna, R. (2012) Terrorism as means to an end:  How political violence bestows significance. In P.R. Shaver & M. Milkulincer (Eds.) Meaning, mortality, and choice: The social psychology of existential concerns (pp.  203-212). Washington, DC: American Psychology Association. Link

Chen, X., & Kruglanski, A.W. (2009). Terrorism as a tool of minority influence. In F.  Butera & J. Levine (Eds). Coping with Minority Statue: Response to Exclusion and  Inclusion (pp. 202-221). New York: Cambridge University Press. Link

Kruglanski, A.W., & Fishman, S. (2009). The psychology to terrorism: ‘Syndrome’  versus ‘tool’ perspectives. In J. Victoroff, & A.W. Kruglanski, (Eds) Psychology of  Terrorism: Classic and Contemporary Insights (pp. 35-53). New York: Psychology Press. Link

Dechesne, M. & Kruglanski, A.W. (2005). Terror's Epistemic Consequences: Existential  Threats and the Quest for Certainty and Closure. In Greenberg J. Koole S. &  Pyszczynski, T. (Eds.). Handbook of Experimental Existential psychology (pp. 25-43).  New York: Erlbaum. Link