The Psychology of Terrorism: Programs and Practices in Response and Prevention - Vol. 4

By Chris E. Stout | Go to book overview

2

Social-Psychological Considerations in the Emergence and Growth of Terrorism

Olufemi A. Lawal

INTRODUCTION

Terrorism, in its various forms, has suddenly become a significant threat to the contemporary world order. It is plausible to base an assessment of the scale of the devastating consequences of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States on how freely and secretly they were probably planned and carried out. However, such an assessment will not suffice in explaining the real dynamics that arguably are involved in the growth and development of terrorism in general. International efforts at eradicating terrorism now abound. But recourse to a proper understanding of how terrorism grows, and of the factors that facilitate such growth, is imperative. Without this, many of the efforts may prove grossly inadequate in achieving the crucial goal of eradicating terrorism, especially in the long run.

This chapter defines terrorism as a deviant, aggressive, and collective behavior embarked on by individuals with the sole motive of inflicting injury and harm on other, targeted individuals. Individuals embarking on this behavior can be referred to as terrorists, and those at whom the behavior is aimed can be referred to as targets. Terrorists seek to inflict harm or injury on their targets, which may be physical (for example, destruction of lives and property) or psychological (stimulation of fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, grief, and a sense of tragedy). Terrorism is thus a form of deviant behavior.

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