The Mind of the Terrorist

The group motivates the individual to become a suicide terrorist by exaggerating about what a mark they will leave behind. The media – which is another group – has endless stories on terrorism that make suicide terrorists popular, since their faces and names are shown multiple times on television. The dream of becoming a part of popular culture is present in most individuals. The group members tell the “chosen one” about the religious merit that will be gained along with entry into heaven; also the act heroism will influence and inspire many others from the in-group to make such sacrifices for their cause.

Symbolically, they will be made immortal because their suicide will not be forgotten for generations. Many rewards are given to a terrorist, knowingly as well as unknowingly. As for research on terrorism very little research has been done since terrorists don’t just volunteer for experiments and studies. But what we do know is, many suicide terrorists are from groups and places where the norm is not of peace but of violence. (Forster Peter, 2001. The Psychology of Terror – The Mind of the Terrorist)

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Minority and majority influence operate the same way but minority groups have less influence and therefore have to take more drastic initiatory actions against the perceived injustice or inequality. When the self-efficacy of the minority group rises and the feeling of competency increases then they begin to take some action. If people are made to feel alone, cornered or injustice has been done to them they feel and begin acting like a minority group.

People from collectivistic cultures, a major source for suicide terrorists, have lower self-esteem than people from individualistic cultures. The former also consider themselves the minority group; meaning, the majority, that is America and other individualistic countries, are against them or what they consider right. The feeling of minority decreases their already low self-esteem further. Research has shown that when people with low self-esteem are put in a bad mood they retrieve mostly negative thoughts and memories.

And when people made to feel alone they are much more “dangerous. ” (See next paragraph for experiment) When an individual’s self-esteem is brought down his/her perception of the possible selves is concentrated on the negative side and this may possibly make the individual violent towards him/her self as well as others. Research by Israeli (1997) suggests that suicide bombers often come from broken families – a group – and suffer from low self-esteem. (Forster Peter, 2001. The Psychology of Terror – The Mind of the Terrorist).

Also, David Long said that, “terrorists tend to have low self-esteem, are attracted to groups with charismatic leaders… ” (Tenenbaum David, 2001. The Psychology of Terrorism: Understanding Evil. Pg. 1. ) This compliments with what is said in the above paragraphs concerning self-esteem and credible leaders. There has been research done by Twenge and Baumeister in 2001 motivated by the Columbine Shootings. The shooters were always socially isolated and felt like the minority group.

The first Independent variable was: Individuals from a group are randomly put into one of three possible groups and are told either a) they will have a future with lots of people around them, or b) they will spend their future alone, or c) they will face misfortune in the future. The second Independent variable was: After being told what their future will be like they were told whether the essay they wrote was excellent or the worst essay ever read by the experimenter. The Dependent variable was: Before leaving the participants were asked to rate an individual the experimenters were thinking of using 10 questions the applicant had answered.

To the participant this was seemingly unrelated to the experiment they had just completed. The results were: People who were told they would have a happy or misfortunate future and given positive or negative feedback gave a positive or reasonable evaluation. It was the same with people who were told they would spend the rest of their life alone and then given positive feedback on the essay. However, there was an alarmingly negative evaluation by participants who were told they would spend their future alone and then later given negative feedback on their essay.

Thus, individuals who are made to feel alone and part of the minority group, and their self-esteem is lowered are more “dangerous. ” However, this experiment has low external validity – there is a stretch between shooting and job applicant rating. I would make certain changes to this experiment to test my hypothesis: belonging to minority groups and feeling isolated causes violence towards others and self-hate. The first and second Independent groups will remain the same from the previous experiment. The first dependent variable however will be giving electric shocks to the experimenter who rated your essay.

The second dependent variable would be a written test that measures self-hate. The experiment should test my hypothesis because people in the alone group with negative feedback should give more shocks and score higher on the self-hate test. To conclude, the threat of suicide is spreading and the numbers of attacks are increasing as time passes. Strong actions must be taken to stop them. Groups are united by common goals and beliefs and the group we belong to can affect our actions. Group pressure promotes conformity which can lead to suicide terrorism.

They are given a one-sided view and are brainwashed into perceiving that their group is suffering and needs their sacrifice. Leaders are am important part of groups. Suicide terrorists influence others from the in-group and the cycle continues. Self-esteem is a major factor in minority groups. If an individual is made to feel alone and part of the minority he/she feels anxiety and self-hate towards the self as well as others. Minorities get desperate under harsh conditions and take extreme actions.


Forster Peter, (2001). The Psychology of Terror – The Mind of the Terrorist. Mageria, D. , Machario, J. (2002). [Interview with Farie Abdul Kadir, director of disaster relief for the Kenya Red Cross]. Globe and Mail November 29, 2002. Myers, D. , Spencer, S. (2001).

Social Psychology (Canadian Edition). Ryerson: McGraw-Hill Pinto, J (2002, November 29) Carnage shatters Kenya’s image as retreat for war-weary Israelis. Globe and Mail. Tenenbaum David, (2001). The Psychology of Terrorism: Understanding Evil. Pg. 1,2. Twenge, Baumeister (2001). Social Isolation and violence (Columbine Shootings) (2002, November 28). Kenyan terrorist attacks target Israelis. Toronto Star.

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