An Analysis of the Existential Underpinnings of the Cycle of Terrorist and Counterterrorist Violence and Pathways to Peaceful Resolutions

International Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 2, pp. 267-291, 2009

14 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2011

See all articles by Matt Motyl

Matt Motyl

University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Chicago

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Date Written: December 31, 2009

Abstract

The current article provides a terror management theory perspective of the psychological factors that lead groups and individuals to endorse, promote, and engage in violent actions against innocent individuals. This perspective provides an empirically-based, theoretically-driven approach to understanding the ways in which ideological, nationalistic, and religious beliefs interact with historical events and concrete complaints to lead people to accept, condone, or participate in terrorist activities. Research provides convergent evidence suggesting that many of the same psychological factors are at work in the minds of people on both sides of conflicts. This suggests that the factors driving people toward terrorism are the same as those which drive people toward extreme counterterrorism measures that often create substantial collateral damage which commonly helps terrorists grow broader support for their causes and increase recruitment. After describing this cycle of violence, research is presented that provides several pathways through which intergroup peace may be attained.

Keywords: terrorism, extremism, ideology, terror management, existential motivation, war, violence, peace, conflict

Suggested Citation

Motyl, Matt and Pyszczynski, Tom, An Analysis of the Existential Underpinnings of the Cycle of Terrorist and Counterterrorist Violence and Pathways to Peaceful Resolutions (December 31, 2009). International Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 2, pp. 267-291, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1763542

Matt Motyl (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1007 W. Harrison St. (m/c 285)
Psychology Department
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1102 Behavioral Science Building (BSB)
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
United States

HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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