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Root causes – The role of individual and relational factors

Psychological factors in explaining violent radicalisation.
So today researchers and practitioners are interested in the myriad of factors that lead different people for different reasons to become involved in extremist violence. One of the nice ways that we understand these things is to think about both individual and social factors and how they may come together to create the push and the pull that leads people to violence. So the individual factors might be things such as the desire to address what’s perceived as an inequality, justice that needs to be served. So for example, it might be a brother being inadvertently killed by law enforcement that leads to the person feeling that they want to get their revenge for that particular action.
Another example of an individual factor might be the perception of the glory and the identity that might come from being involved in violent extremism that’s going to search for individual distinctiveness that becomes attractive to some individuals. And then on the social factors, we think of things such as peer groups who have a strong influence on the reason why some individuals get involved in violence. And, in fact, that’s that whole social glue and that network that, for some people, often becomes particularly important. So for example, there was a case in the United Kingdom where an individual, because of his disabilities, did not have good social and community connections.
But those were offered to him online, and they’re offering by a group who were kind, who were engaging, treated that person like an individual, gave him a set of social relationships that he valued. Unfortunately, those social relationships also were people who were keen to encourage violence extremism. So there is no one set of circumstances, no one set of push and pull factors that are relevant to all individuals, but there does seem to be a set which are relevant in different ways for different individuals, and that’s what researchers and practitioners are interested in understanding. And that, of course, explains why encountering violent extremism is also complex.
It’s not a case that we can’t understand or can’t come to an agreement of how to do CV, or counterviolent extremism, work. It’s that the reality is that in different communities and for different people, different types of strategies, different types of implementations are the correct ones to pursue. And that’s why the complexity is there, not because of the lack of agreement, but because it’s needed for the various drivers and factors that define our lives and define why people move towards violent extremism.

In this interview, Prof. Paul Taylor from Lancaster University provides some insight into the kind of individual and relational factors that may push some people toward violent radicalisation.

Paul Taylor is Professor of Psychology at Lancaster University, UK, and Professor of Human Interaction at Twente University, The Netherlands. In October 2015, he was appointed director of the UK’s Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), a national centre commissioned by the ESRC with funding from the UK security and intelligence agencies.

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Religion, Radicalisation, Resilience

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