A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Psychological issues in understanding terrorism and the response to terrorism


Psychological issues in understanding terrorism and the response to terrorism

Abstract: 

This chapter begins with a brief effort to put modern terrorism in context.  Thereafter, the chapter is divided into two main sections.  The first section deals with psychological issues involved in understanding the perpetrators of terrorism, including their motivations and strategies.  The second section deals with the U.S. response to terrorism, including issues of fear and identity shift in reaction to the events of September 11, 2001.  I cannot offer a full review of the literature related to even one of these issues and for some issues there is so little relevant  literature that I can only point in the general direction that research might take.  In using a very broad brush, I need to apologize in advance to scholars whose knowledge and contributions are not adequately represented here.  A little theory can be a dangerous thing, especially in the hands of a nonspecialist in the relevant area of theory.  But the events of September 11 warrant some additional risk-taking in connecting psychological research to understanding of the origins and effects of terrorism.

Publication Information

Full Citation: 

McCauley, Clark. 2007. "Psychological issues in understanding terrorism and the response to terrorism." In Psychology of Terrorism, ed. Chris E. Strout. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 3-29.

START Author(s): 
Clark McCauley
Publication URL: 
Visit Website