The authors begin by considering the possible role of prejudice, economic deprivation, and discrimination, and the cognitive responses and emotions they can trigger. Such responses tend in turn to increase the importance of group membership, and promote intergroup differentiation and polarization, a process which is often accompanied by more pronounced and more extreme religious and ideological beliefs. The book also describes the role of cultural values and social climate in processes of radicalization, as well as the role of personality factors and demographics such as age and marital status.
As for violent terrorist action itself, this final most radical stage is elicited by a number of group factors such as groupthink, isolation, and leadership. Certain cognitive mechanisms – for example, dehumanizing the target and attributing responsibility elsewhere – can also provide excuses for violence. The book explores why some groups turn to violence and others don’t, and it addresses processes of disengagement, deradicalization programs, and other methods used to inhibit the spread of radicalization and terrorism.
The Psychology of Radicalization and Terrorismtakes a unique and systematic approach to a vital topic, integrating knowledge from diverse literatures, and using social psychology as a basis for comprehending human behaviour. It will be essential reading for students and researchers from all disciplines seeking a greater understanding of terrorism and violent political conflict in all its forms.
Willem Koomen has been affiliated with the Department of Social Psychology of the University of Amsterdam since 1963. His research interests include social cognition, and particularly stereotyping and stigmatization.
Joop van der Pligt was a professor in social psychology at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests pertained to attitudes, perceived risk and affect in relation to decision making. He died in 2015, when this book was almost completed.
Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.
While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.
Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.
“A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust."—Newsweek