Root Causes of Violent Radicalization: Terror Contagion Hypothesis
33 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021 Last revised: 16 May 2022
Date Written: November 6, 2021
We propose a novel hypothesis that violent radicalization leading to terrorism operates as a system of social contagion. A terror contagion exploits existing grievances and moral outrage well suited for radicalizing within a population already at-risk of committing predatory mass violence. After a terrorist incident, media broadcasts of cultural scripts convey both a violent ideology and a modus operandi for mass violence. Radicalization can result when at-risk people receive these cultural scripts and share self-similarity and notoriety bias with the perpetrator. Radicalization activates a human adaptation to predatory violence by following the modus operandi. Subsequently, completed terror incidents create their own media broadcasts, perpetuating the contagion. We arrived at this hypothesis through systems science and complex systems causal analysis. We propose several experiments and testable predictions to build confidence in the terror contagion hypothesis.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation