How Do Terrorist Cells Self-Assemble: Insights from an Agent-Based Model of Radicalization

47 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2008 Last revised: 9 Jul 2011

See all articles by Michael Genkin

Michael Genkin

Cornell University - Department of Sociology

Alexander Gutfraind

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Date Written: July 7, 2011

Abstract

Since the 9/11 attacks, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of self-starter terrorist plots in both Western Europe and the United States. Past studies of self-starter terrorism focused on how persons come to acquire radical beliefs but take the additional step for granted - the transformation of isolated radical individuals into cells or networks that produce violent collective action. To better understand this search and assembly aspect of radicalization we constructed an agent-based computational model of radicalization and then validated its predictions with empirical data. Our work yielded three distinct contributions: 1) we operationalized radicalization with precise network measures and distinguished between four types of radicalization scenarios; 2) we characterized the factors that contribute to radicalization as well as deradicalization; 3) we extended radicalization theory by identifying specific network mechanisms such as occlusion, encapsulation, and magnet-rewiring by which radicals self-organize. Our findings may allow us to distinguish the conditions that lead to small transient cells from conditions that lead to large long-lasting terrorist organizations.

Keywords: terrorism, radicalization, simulation, agent-based model, home-grown terrorism, self-starter terrorism

Suggested Citation

Genkin, Michael and Gutfraind, Alexander, How Do Terrorist Cells Self-Assemble: Insights from an Agent-Based Model of Radicalization (July 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1031521 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1031521

Michael Genkin

Cornell University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Alexander Gutfraind (Contact Author)

Los Alamos National Laboratory ( email )

Theoretical Division
Los Alamos, NM 87545
United States
607-667-8715 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.cam.cornell.edu/~gfriend/

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