Preventing, reversing terrorist radicalization: New research initiative

May 02, 2012
This will be the most comprehensive empirical look to date on preventing and reversing radicalization. Credit: University of Maryland/BSOS

A University of Maryland-led team of international experts will investigate ways to understand, prevent and reverse the radicalization of young people in destabilized areas of the world, and to keep them from embracing terror as a political tool.

The five year project - one of the most comprehensive empirical investigations to date on radicalization and deradicalization - is funded with a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

"Ultimately, we hope to identify tactics that will help inoculate young people against terrorist recruiters who urge the use of violence as a legitimate political tool," says Principal Investigator Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland . "We need to understand with far greater precision the dynamics of radicalization, to be able to counter the forces of extremism."

Kruglanski argues that a critical value of the study is its focus on preventative rather than tactical counterterrorism, which he says costs far less in the long run.

Both he and the project's co-investigator, Michele Gelfand, are based in UMD's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Gelfand, a cross-cultural psychologist, conducts extensive research in the Middle East, and brings to the project insights from her own DoD-funded research on culture and negotiations.

Other team members come from the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (Paris), George Mason University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of Michigan, Northwestern University and the University of Warsaw.

Drawn from leading international experts in a variety of disciplines, the team will conduct intensive field interviews in parts of the Middle East; Maghreb, Africa; South Asia and South East Asia.

For example, the researchers will examine from a psychological perspective - as a quest for personal significance - while drawing on the insights of University of Michigan anthropologist Scott Atran: that observance of sacred values provides personal significance, while demanding individual sacrifice, Kruglanski explains.

The researchers will also examine efforts to deradicalize terrorists - a procedure used on terrorism detainees in an increasing number of vulnerable countries, but one that does not always last.

"There's a tug-of-war for their values," Kruglanski says. "Their willingness to use violence seems to remain in a state of flux, and the stakes could not be higher. Thousands of presumably deradicalized detainees have been released into their communities. But can they slide back into extremism? Behavioral science is well positioned to find out and assist with formation of a comprehensive detainee policy."

The study is funded through the Minerva Research Initiative, a Department of Defense program dedicated to long-term basic research in the social sciences. The Office of Naval Research will administer the grant.

"Developing an understanding of the social, behavioral and cultural conditions of conflict is vital to peace and security," says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. "It is gratifying that the Department of Defense recognizes the significance of this research."

Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS), John Townshend, congratulated Kruglanski and Gelfand for their success in the highly competitive Minerva grant process. "I have no doubt they will make great strides toward better understanding the root causes behind the threat of global terrorism, an understanding which will have significant social benefits," Townshend says. "This is exactly the type of collaborative, multidisciplinary research that drives BSOS's innovative mission."

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

STOP terrorism software

Feb 25, 2008

Researchers at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) have developed the SOMA Terror Organization Portal (STOP) allowing analysts to query automatically learned rules on terrorist ...

Why do pivotal cultural differences among countries exist?

May 26, 2011

In today's world, conflicts and misunderstandings frequently arise between those who are from more restrictive cultures and those from less restrictive ones. Now, a new international study led by the University of Maryland ...

What makes solo terrorists tick?

Dec 15, 2011

The double terrorist attack in Norway last July, which claimed 77 lives, has moved violent acts committed by single individuals up the political, media and now research agendas. Known as "lone wolf terrorism," these acts ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

18 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

21 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

COCO
1 / 5 (1) May 03, 2012
think the status quo of bombing and destroying countries seems to be working according to the Prince of Peace - what is driving this need for change - sounds like wooly-headed liberal thought

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...