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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Terrorists and Their Victims: Exploring Their Psychological Parallels

APA 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.

Read the Review
ReviewFear and the Psychological Response to Terrorism
By Arie W. Kruglanski
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(2)


thomas scheff

Glad to find that the emotion of fear is emphasized. However, in trying to understand the motivations of the kilers, I have been working with anger and shame. James Gilligan has argued that ALL violence is caused by secret shame, but he doesn't spell out how this might come about.

In my studies of indivual and group violence, I proposed that emotions like fear, anger and shame are not harmful unless they go UNACKNOWLEDGED. Even if acknowledgement is partial, it still helps ("You hurt my feelings" is only a small step toward acknowleging shame, but it still helps).

But if completely hidden, it can become recursive, acting back on itself, leading to a chain reaction of limitless pain, withdrawal, or violence. Shame/shame recursion usually leads to withdrawal, but shame/anger can end in violence.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

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College of Medicine,
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