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Social Learning Theory and Becoming a Terrorist

The Handbook of the Criminology of TerrorismChapter summary

In this chapter, we explore the conceptual linkages between Ronald L. Akers’ learning theory and the process of becoming a terrorist. First, we lay out the definitions of terrorism and terrorists employed in this chapter. Next, we provide an overview of Akers’ (1973, 1985, 1998) social learning theory (SLT), including his social structure social learning model (SSSL). Third, we propose a series of conceptual linkages between both SLT and SSSL and learning to become terrorists. Fourth, we examine the role of social media as ancillary learning structures. We contend that this framework contains the fundamental ideas necessary to understand and reverse the antisocial (i.e., terrorist radicalization) learning process, something inherent in the work of Akers and his sociological and psychological progenitors.