The authors outline a psychological model of extremism and analyze violent extremism as a special case of it. Their significance quest theory identifies 3 general drivers of violent extremism: need, narrative, and network. The theory asserts that the need for personal significance—the desire to matter, to “be someone,” and to have meaning in one’s life—is the dominant need that underlies violent extremism. A violence-justifying ideological narrative contributes to radicalization by delineating a collective cause that can earn an individual the significance and meaning he or she desires, as well as an appropriate means with which to pursue that cause. Lastly, a network of people who subscribe to that narrative leads individuals to perceive the violence-justifying narrative as cognitively accessible and morally acceptable. The authors describe empirical evidence for the theory, which was tested on a wide variety of samples across different cultures and geopolitical contexts. They go on to offer a general road map to guide efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism in its various forms.
Kruglanski, Arie W., Katarzyna Jasko, David Webber, Marina Chernikova, and Erica Molinario. 2018. "The Making of Violent Extremists." Review of General Psychology 22 (March): 107-120. http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-12102-002