Academic journal article Behavior and Social Issues

Terrorism and Relational Frame Theory

Academic journal article Behavior and Social Issues

Terrorism and Relational Frame Theory

Article excerpt


The present paper presents a conceptualization of human behavior involved in terrorism from a Relational Frame Theory perspective. Relational frame theory is a contemporary behavior analytic account of human language and cognition. This account has yielded answers to many substantial empirical and theoretical psychological questions that have puzzled psychologists for some time. We believe that relational frame theory can and does account for the behavior of terrorists, those persons affected by terrorists acts directly and indirectly, as well as the entire culture of a country at large. This paper outlines the current state of psychological affairs regarding terrorism in the United States of America, traces the evolution and application of relational frame theory, and describes the prejudices that may follow from a terrorist attack or contribute to terrorist recruitment. Implications for scientists and practitioners are also presented.

Key words: relational frame theory, stimulus equivalence, transfer of function, terrorism, terrorists

The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 have left a permanent scar on the United States of America. This scar runs much deeper than the destroyed buildings and the countless numbers of innocently lost lives. These terrorist attacks will remain as a reminder that the world is no longer a safe place to live, and that even the USA is vulnerable to catastrophic dangers from unknown persons from remote parts of the world. Many nations have lived with such a fear for centuries. Until now, the United States has not. The veil of security covering the USA population has been removed forever.

Many changes have taken place in USA as a result of the September 11th attacks. They include new airline boarding policies, a nation-wide terrorist alert warning system, tightened patrolling of the nation's boarders, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and a call for all United States citizens to report any suspicious behavior to local law enforcement. Cities now plan for terrorist strikes by running mock scenarios of chemical or biological warfare attacks. The US Postal Service now irradiates mail to political leaders, and warns its customers not to open any packages from unknown senders. Changes continue to occur in all aspects of US culture. One change that only recently to emerge is the psychological effects on our nation's population.

There has been an increase in persons across the country that are now seeking psychological services of clinicians for posttraumatic stress disorders related to September 11th (Meisenhelder, 2002; Thobaben, 2002). Many United States citizens appear to have an increased need for human contact (Alper, 2002) and religious affiliation as a means of coping with such stress and devastation (Meisenhelder, 2002). Evidence also suggests that there was a 4.9% nation-wide rise in antidepressant prescriptions for 6 months following the attacks when compared to the 6 months prior to the attacks (Kettl & Bixler, 2002). case reports are still surfacing in the published literature of persons who have been more tempted to commit suicide now than before the attacks (Duggal, Berezkin, & John, 2002). More American citizens now fear unknown persons of Middle Eastern descent. Indirect effects of changes to USA's psychological perceptions can also be found throughout many aspects of society, particularly within the MiddleEastern American community.

A report by the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR, 2002) has stated that over 60,000 Muslim-Americans have been negatively affected psychologically, and sometimes physically, following the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Their data include 1,200 Muslims singled out and detained by immigration officials and "treated as if they were terrorists." Other reports have documented 5,000 legal visa holders being asked to submit to "voluntary interrogations" (Deen, 2002). …

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