Research paper describing the psychological and behavioral factors of individual terrorists (i.e. recruits and suicide bombers; not terrorist leaders such as Bin Laden).

Note: you will address different radicalization processes/models in the final paper such as Moghaddam’s Staircase, so you only need to research and discuss individual psychological and behavioral factors in this paper. Also remember that “psychological” does not mean “psychotic” and we are only addressing those of sound mind who deliberately choose violence for a political purpose, or retribution or to instill fear (not crazy mass shooters).

Assignment Specifics:

The body of your report is to be at least three FULL pages in length (not counting title page and references) and is to contain the following:

A brief introduction, with the topic and your thesis

A main body, containing the “meat” of the paper, where you provide the requested information supported by class readings and with your analysis

A conclusion, summarizing your information clearly and concisely

Technical Requirements

Scholarly and credible references should be used. A good rule of thumb is at least 2 scholarly sources per page of content.

Type in Times New Roman, 12 point, and double space.

Points will be deducted for the use of Wikipedia or encyclopedic-type sources. It is highly advised to utilize books, peer-reviewed journals, articles, archived documents, etc.


Psychological and Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists

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Psychological and Behavioral Factors of Individual Terrorists

Terrorism has no religion or nationality. As former U.S president Barrack Obama stated, ‘no religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.’ Acts of terrorism did not begin with the September 11, 2001 twin tower attack. However, the occurrences of that day did change the world’s perspective towards terrorism. In recent years, violence and terrorism have dramatically escalated due to numerous factors (Doosje et al., 2016), especially in the age of technology. Significant advances in technology have enabled terrorists to form even more lethal weapons, from self-activating bombs to biological weapons.

Although the logic of cause and effect is unfitting to explaining and understanding terrorism origin and context, specific factors are proved influential in developing new activities of terrorism. According to Lygre et al. (2011), besides historical, motivational, technological, economic, and political factors, other psychological and behavioral factors influence individual terrorism. This research paper describes psychological and behavioral factors of individual terrorists, precisely recruits and suicide bombers, and addresses different radicalization models such as Moghaddam’s Staircase.

Reasons for Engaging in Terrorism

Often, individuals involved in terrorism are thought to be psychopaths. As Marazziti, Veltri & Piccinni (2019) argues, mental illness is not a significant factor when explaining terrorist behaviors. Further, these authors point to behavioral neuroscience as an irresistible development in explaining moral choices and social behavior. Agreeably, good and evil have been part of humans since antiquity, and therefore no one is willingly evil. However, an individual can become evil because of a wrong disposition, which part of humans. Access to true education is shown to be an effective defense against these evil dispositions. Without this training, it becomes hideous for everyone and happens against their will.

In light of the above, it is sufficiently clear that acts of terrorism are not influenced by psychotic causes (Webber & Kruglanski, 2017; Webber & Kruglanski, 2018). With attention to causes and motives of terrorism, particularly individual terrorists, psychological and behavioral factors are the most prevalent influencers. Equally, reasons motivating terrorism are classified into political, social, economic, and personal. For instance, the desire for independence, supremacism of a particular group, environmental protection, ending perceived government oppression, previous exposure to violence, the quest for identity, distorted perception, and social isolation are typical terrorism causes and motivation factors. 

Psychological Factors

The term psychological refers to anything pertaining, dealing, or affecting the mind. Equally, psychological factors include individual-level processes, meanings, feelings, motivation, and awareness that affect the person’s mental state. For some time now, the psychology of terrorism is elaborated more by theory and opinion than by foundational scientific facts, according to Horgan et al. (2016). Nonetheless, contemporary psychologists have begun compiling factual data to review terrorism concerning political and social dynamics alongside universal psychological principles.

With this regard, there are psychological factors attributed to individuals more open to terrorist recruitment and radicalization. They include feelings of anger, alienation, and disenfranchised, the need for honor and social status, pain and personal loss, exposure to violence, group pressure, humiliation and injustice, dedication to a leader, and vengeance. Additionally, Webber & Kruglanski (2017) discuss other psychological factors like having friends and family supporting the cause, believing that violence against the government is morally justifiable, feeling the need to act rather than dialogue about an issue, and the need to change state authority and governance due to failed services.

Noteworthy, researchers like Horgan, Shortland & Abbasciano (2018) believe that it is more crucial to understand the impact of terrorism involvement than learning why individuals enroll in the first place. In this case, examining behavioral factors is essential granted the lasting effects of terrorism engagement. Delving into conceivable areas, such as exploring myriad ways people join terrorist organizations, whether through compelled recruitment or personal decision, helps create plausible interventions. Equally, the terrorist leaders’ influence and the motivation to leave terrorism quest can be examined as effective strategies for counteracting terrorism.

Behavioral Factors

Behavioral factors are generally defined as features emanating from human conduct. In most cases, these factors result from personal, situational, or reaction to the environment. According to Horgan et al. (2016), in a research finding analyzing the behavior of 183 individuals convicted for terrorist offenses in the United States, understanding behavioral factors serves as a meaningful explanation for engaging in terrorism activities. Exposure to violence and its involvement from early years is shown as a behavioral factor among individual terrorists. Persons exposed to violence and criminal activities develop a strong disposition towards engaging in heinous activities against humanity.

Therefore, when an opportunity arises for recruitment or personal reasons like great rewards for joining terrorism (Marazziti, Veltri & Piccinni, 2019), such individuals are more likely to ride along with the opportunity. The constant desire for recognition, power, and honor, when clang to as dominant behavior, especially from a young can be a behavioral factor to individual terrorism. Be that as it may, psychological and behavioral factors are complimentary, one influencing the other.

Radicalization Models

Radicalization refers to the process where an individual or group adopts radical views contrary to the typical political, social, or religious status quo. The radicalization process is independent through multiple separate promotion methods, say Lygre et al. (2011). However, in most cases, the process is mutually reinforcing. In light of the above, radicalization regarding terrorism can be understood as the process by which individuals adapt to violent extremist ideologies enabling acts of terrorism (Webber & Kruglanski, 2017). Since cases of terrorism have become more common and complex, governments and terrorism experts are engaged in collaborative efforts aimed at mitigating recruitment and terrorism acts. Such efforts have brought into the field of knowledge and investigation particular models suitable for addressing the global terrorism challenge.

For instance, Fathali M. Moghaddam uses a narrowing staircase to explain circumstances leading individuals into terrorism (Lygre et al., 2011). The staircase begins from the first floor to the fifth floor, offering doors of opportunities with fewer and fewer choices. Consequently, when the individual reaches the highest case, the only possible outcome becomes the destruction of others, or oneself, or both. With the four phases of radicalization, namely, pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization, other models like Violent Extremism Risk Assessment protocol, the New York Department Model, and the National Counter-Terrorism Model have been developed. Notably, these models play an essential role in explaining behavioral and psychological individuals’ causes of terrorism.


In-depth research on factors influencing terrorism recruits and suicide bombers point to individual psychological and behavioral aspects as underlying causes. Governments and terrorism experts have made a significant step in mitigating terrorism through different radicalization models such as Moghaddam’s Staircase and Violent Extremism Risk Assessment protocol. Generally, there are specific reasons outlined for engaging in terrorism which is factored by psychological and behavioral features. Noteworthy, contemporary authentic research indicates that most terrorist individuals are not overtly psychotic. Behavioral and psychological factors are supplementary to each other given their dependability, with each element influencing the other. The rise in terrorism occurrences necessitates data-driven social scientific methods aimed at understanding the roots of terrorism. Arguably, efforts by different departments, governments, and terrorism experts can be applied to inform mitigation interventions.


Doosje, B., Moghaddam, F. M., Kruglanski, A. W., De Wolf, A., Mann, L., & Feddes, A. R. (2016). Terrorism, radicalization and de-radicalization. Current Opinion in Psychology11, 79-84.

Horgan, J., Shortland, N., & Abbasciano, S. (2018). Towards a typology of terrorism involvement: A behavioral differentiation of violent extremist offenders. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management5(2), 84.

Horgan, J., Shortland, N., Abbasciano, S., & Walsh, S. (2016). Actions speak louder than words: A behavioral analysis of 183 individuals convicted for terrorist offenses in the United States from 1995 to 2012. Journal of forensic sciences61(5), 1228-1237.

Lygre, R. B., Eid, J., Larsson, G., & Ranstorp, M. (2011). Terrorism as a process: A critical review of Moghaddam’s “Staircase to Terrorism”. Scandinavian journal of psychology52(6), 609-616.

Marazziti, D., Veltri, A., & Piccinni, A. (2019). The mind of suicide terrorists. Evil, Terrorism & Psychiatry: Stahl Essential Psychopharmacology Handbooks, 30.

Webber, D., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2017). Psychological factors in radicalization: A “3 N” approach. The handbook of the criminology of terrorism, 33-46.

Webber, D., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2018). The social psychological makings of a terrorist. Current opinion in psychology19, 131-134.