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Psychological Factors in Radicalization

The Handbook of the Criminology of TerrorismChapter summary

Radicalization refers to the process whereby an individual comes to endorse non-normative, and often violent, means as a mechanism for goal achievement. The present chapter discusses three psychological factors—the 3 Ns—involved in this process, specifically as it pertains to violent extremism. First, we discuss the need, that is, the individual motivation underlying violent extremism, triggering events that activate this motivation within the individual, and the ramifications of these triggering events on extreme behavior. Second, we discuss the role of ideological narrative in justifying and legitimating violence as a necessary and permissible tool toward goal attainment. Third, and finally, we discuss social networks, and the role they play in how would-be-terrorists find themselves joining extremist organizations, and how these group dynamics increase one’s willingness to perpetrate extreme acts of violence.