Research Center for Group Dynamics



The Psychology of Extremism

Hosted by
James Jackson, Jacque Eccles, Eugene Burnstein, and Rowell Huesmann

All seminars are held at 6050 ISR
Refreshments at 3:30 p.m.
Seminar at approximately 3:45 p.m.




January 28

A Round-Table Discussion led by James Jackson

February 11

Ariel Merari
Tel-Aviv University
(Invited by Rowell Huesmann)

Suicidal Terrorism

March 4

Mark Tessler
University of Michigan
(Invited by James Jackson)

Attitudes in the Middle East Toward Islam, Democracy and International Conflict

March 11

Donald M. Taylor
McGill University
(Invited by James Jackson)

Terrorism as the Search for Collective Identity

March 18

Susan Harter
University of Denver
(Invited by Jacque Eccles)

What have we learned from Columbine: The role of the self-system in understanding adolescent violent ideation

March 25

Brian Barber
University of Tennessee
(Invited by Jacque Eccles)

Adolescents and Political Violence: Lessons Meaning From Gaza and Sarajevo

April 1

Raphel S. Ezekiel
Harvard School of Public Health
(Invited by James Jackson)


April 8

Dariusz Stola
Warsaw University
(Invited by Eugene Burnstein)

The Mass Murder in Jedwabne


Suicidal Terrorism

Ariel Merari
Professor of Psychology
Director, Program for Political Violence
Tel-Aviv University

Dr. Merari is perhaps the world's foremost expert on the psychology of suicide terrorists and political violence in general.He is probably the only person who has collected empirical data on suicide terrorists.

Although many terrorist groups have carried out very high-risk attacks that were described by them self-sacrificial, in a strict sense suicidal terrorism only includes attacks in which the perpetrators deliberately killed themselves while killing others. With this definition in mind, suicide terrorism is a new phenomenon, which started in Lebanon in 1983. Terrorist groups of several nationalities have carried out attacks that belong in this category, among them Lebanese, Palestinian, Tamil, Kurdish, Turkish, and Chechen. Empirical data collected since this form of terrorism first appeared in Lebanon suggests that terrorist suicide is an organizational rather than a personal phenomenon. It is planned and prepared by an organization rather than by the person who commits the suicide. The individual characteristics of suicide terrorists are different from the generally accepted features of other suicides in both demographic and psychological attributes. Religious motives are not a pre-requisite for suicidal terrorism, nor is the belief in reward in Paradise. In themselves, these motives are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for creating a suicide terrorist. Like other powerful motives, however (e.g., patriotism, hate of the enemy, etc.), these themes are used by religious groups for strengthening the suicide candidate's resolve.

Characteristics of the suicides as well as the process of recruiting and training them for their mission will be described in detail in the presentation.