Terrorists and Their Victims: Exploring Their Psychological Parallels
In his review of The Psychology of Terrorism Fears, Arie Kruglanski notes the neglect of "the concept of fear" and the focus "on conventional indices of negative emotionality such as depression, anxiety, or stress" in psychological research on terrorism. He goes on to question the actual object of the fear experienced in relation to terrorism, the management of this fear, and the role that terror management theory might play in our understanding of these phenomena.
The most interesting proposition offered by Kruglanski is the notion that there may be a close parallel between the psychology of those accused of terrorism and those victimized by it. As psychologists, we might benefit from exploring the consequences of acknowledging this potential parallel. Might the empathy derived from acknowledging how totally different perceptions of reality result in a similar emotional response—we are afraid—allow each party greater psychological space to consider paths to peaceful coexistence? How might psychologists advise those in charge of dealing with captured terrorists if fear, probably in combination with ideology and misinformation, contributes to terrorism? Of great interest to me is whether there is any experiment or proof that might be offered to counter our intuitive response, which is to strike greater fear and terror in the hearts of our adversaries in response to the fear they seek and likely do strike in us.
By Arie W. Kruglanski
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(2)