Study finds social interactions drive extremism

November 27, 2013
Study finds social interactions drive extremism

Murdoch University-led research has found that social interaction is a key mechanism in individuals radicalising into extremists.

Lead researcher Dr Emma Thomas said the study provides evidence that the radicalisation process requires two elements: 'prompts' from others supporting the idea that only radical action can achieve change; and .

"Over the past decade, investigators have confronted the fact that very little evidence exists to support the idea that political extremism is caused by psychopathology," Dr Thomas said.

"While the media continues to use words such as 'madmen', 'crazed' or 'deluded' to describe those who undertake radical actions, more objectively, these people behave in ways that are strategic and designed to affect change in society.

"That they use radical action indicates that they feel conventional ways of seeking change, such as legal action or protest, won't work. But people don't become extremists sitting alone in a room – they require others to test their viewpoints and confirm their beliefs."

To test their theory, researchers measured 114 participants' responses to an anti-caged egg campaign, dividing them into political groups and radical groups.

The political groups were primed with expert commentary saying peaceful action was the best way to stop cruelty to hens, while the radical groups were told more extreme action was needed, even if illegal.

Half of the groups were instructed to fill out questionnaires and behavioural measures immediately after the presentation, while the other half were given 30 minutes to debate the situation before being evaluated.

"As expected, group discussion produced stronger action intentions, greater awareness of shared grievance as well as a belief in the need to involve and convince society, in both political and radical groups," Dr Thomas said.

"However, the radical group went further. They were more willing to support more extreme measures, including supporting groups that rescued chickens from factory farms through break and enter, chaining themselves to farming equipment and donating money to organisations that sometimes acted illegally."

Primed radical groups who discussed the situation were also much more likely to take real action compared to those in the radical group who didn't discuss the campaign (88 per cent to 48 per cent).

"The combination of priming with social interaction created the conditions for more extreme action. Although these participants were not full blown radicals by any means, this research provides evidence that radicalisation is a social, group process," Dr Thomas said.

"Political extremism is not something specific to certain cultural, ethnic or religious groups, nor is it an aspect of individual psychopathology," Dr Thomas said.

Explore further: Want to defeat a proposed public policy? Just label supporters as 'extreme'

More information: "Social interaction and psychological pathways to political engagement and extremism." Emma F. Thomas, Craig McGarty, Winnifred Louis. European Journal of Social Psychology. Article first published online: 4 OCT 2013 DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.1988

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1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 27, 2013
More soft peddling of the issue of corrupt governmental abuse of citizens. The use of psychosis as the "explanation" for extremism may be becoming tired or, as with the "rebels" in Syria, it may be becoming obvious that those the U.S. supports in many conflicts overseas fall in the same behavioral category as those condemned as "terrorists" only a few years ago. But, still, all the fault is being placed with the people. They are still being described as "unreasonably" angry at the actions of government. The "research" carefully ignores that there is another factor that plays a part in the concluding that mild means don't solve government corruption, the fact that mild means actually seen not accomplishing anything! This is not recommending violence but endorsing realizing that government does its best to benefit only the rich.
1.1 / 5 (13) Nov 27, 2013
Many of these social networks include government agents, who incite extremest measures in these cells as needs require
1 / 5 (10) Nov 27, 2013
Many of these social networks include government agents, who incite extremest measures in these cells as needs require

The KGB way?
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 27, 2013
Many of these social networks include government agents, who incite extremest measures in these cells as needs require
The KGB way?
Not only
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (10) Nov 27, 2013
It's all in the marketing of a concept... Who was the guy in the 30s that laid all this out? Some call it - brainwashing....
3 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
The US Government, in my opinion, has not only catered to the rich and powerful, but has consistently supported policies that are racist and bigoted and meant to keep minorities and the poor down and out. Social Security was the best thing that ever happened to this country (and other social support networks), but it did cut out farm workers which prevented these people as a class from accumulating wealth, as the white populace had already largely done. The myth of the "takers" versus the "Makers" has been disproved over and over again, but greedy corporate and ideological fanatics keep the oppression alive. The Right doesn't wear sheets and hoods anymore (softer tone), but its the same people. Only a few examples, so there is much work that needs to be done in order to insure true equality. Still, I would live no other place.
1 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2013
The largest source of extremeism are the banksters funding spying on citizens as a profitable enterprise for corporations, which in turn use NSA intel to steal from compeditors and misallocate investment to dead end projects. Most noteworthy is the continued investment in pil despite peak oil occuring in 2005. This means that every barrel discovered costs more and returns less, is is a bad investment to alternative, renewable, sustainable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. But investment of the 0% credit is determined by personal connections, not project viability. Thus USA is destined to invest in dying petrol structure

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