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Just sharing – Groupthink and Terrorist Radicalization

terrorism n political violence



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Eteri Tsintsadze-Maass & Richard W. Maass (2014). Groupthink and Terrorist Radicalization. Terrorism and Political Violence. 26:5. 735-758.


Why do groups adopt terrorism? Major theories of terrorist radicalization assume it to be a rational process whereby groups select terrorism as the policy most likely to advance their goals. Not all terrorism is rational, however, and these theories cannot explain cases when groups pursue terrorism despite it being self-defeating. We distinguish between rational and irrational terrorism, and explain the latter using social psychology’s groupthink mechanism. Although terrorists are widely assumed to be vulnerable to groupthink, empirical work on the phenomenon has focused overwhelmingly on decision-making by national executives. We firmly establish the link between groupthink and terrorist radicalization by tracing groupthink’s operation through the development of the Weather Underground, an American terrorist group that emerged in the late 1960 s and conducted six years of bombings against the U.S. government. All of the antecedent conditions, symptoms, and decision-making defects predicted by groupthink are evident in the Weather Underground, providing valuable evidence of the dangers of irrational radicalization and offering lessons for its prevention.


About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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