Narcissism Over Ideology: Revealed versus Stated Terrorist Preferences
66 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2017 Last revised: 13 Jun 2017
Date Written: March 21, 2017
What preferences motivate the severity of terrorist attacks? I investigate how Boko Haram terrorists adjust their fatalities when unexpectedly deprived of public attention, relative to Al Shabaab terrorists, that were not deprived of public attention. Losing public attention raises the severity of terrorism: Boko Haram terrorist fatalities surged following the rebasing of Nigeria's economy, which catapulted the country into Africa's largest and the top twenty-five worldwide. The largest spike in Boko Haram terrorist fatalities occurred in the wake of the Nigerian Ebola health crisis. Although Boko Haram claims an anti-education sentiment, their fatalities do not actually differ significantly from Al Shabaab fatalities during the Nigerian national basic education examination. Overall, terrorists consider well-being changes as threats that have more validity than the persuasiveness of their own claimed ideologies. The results are robust to acknowledging other conflict actors in Nigeria and Somalia that have distinct motivations. Terrorist groups do not significantly vary the severity of their attacks during Ramadan. Given extremists' vulnerable self-concepts, emphasizing revealed relative preferences may undermine terrorist credibility and recruitment.
Keywords: Violence, terrorism, narcissism, egotism, attention
JEL Classification: D03, D23, D74, O12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation