Week 1- Running Definition and the Cognitive Aspects of Radicalism

Apr 02, 2022

Welcome back!

Over the past week, I looked into the meaning of radicalism, which is simply defined as, “the belief or actions of people who advocate thorough or complete political or social reform” by the Oxford Dictionary. While it is possible that extremist thinking does not turn into violent behavior, in this study, most of the observed cases of extremism will be prone to violence. This will be the running definition of radicalism that I will continue to use throughout my literary analysis. Most studies that focus on the radicalization and deradicalization process define it as having three levels; sensitivity, group membership, and action. These three levels can be determined by the individual, group, and societal factors which might either facilitate the process or start the process of disengagement, this makes radicalism an individual problem as much as a societal one. That means any solution on this topic would have to take into account both dimensions. However, the common factor is that extreme thought doesn’t always correlate with specific psychopathology for terrorists, which means that they aren’t crazy people.

So what is it that makes people commit to extremist ideologies? For the most part, scientists in this field are recognizing that the scope of the research is limited on the topic, so it is important to investigate how so many people are forced into an echo chamber of ideologies. With the increase of white supremacist violence, as well as many other different types of radicalism, there needs to be work done to prevent the transformation of young boys into terrorists. Only through understanding the mechanisms that play into this complex issue will the way to deradicalization be clear.

Previous research has suggested that reactive and proactive violence could be linked to brain dysfunctions in certain areas such as the prefrontal, orbitofrontal, medial temporal structures, and temporolimbic structures. The fact that there’s a connection between these parts of the brain, which are responsible for higher-level thinking, cognitive decision making, declarative memory, and survival instincts shows the sociological scope of the current research is not enough to fully encompass the details of radicalism. It also goes on further to prove that any person with previously recognized grievances and sensitivities is prone to believe in radical ideologies. With the extremist propaganda that makes the news each day, is becoming more urgent to figure out how sensitivities to radicalization can be determined and fixed before the actual radicalization process. That is why I plan to supplement the lack of multi-dimensional research in this field with my own and come up with a clear pathway to radicalization. 

I hope to see you in the next couple of weeks! 


2 Replies to “Week 1- Running Definition and the Cognitive Aspects of Radicalism”

  1. Luc M. says:

    I look forward to seeing your research on radicalization and its causes. It’s very cool that you are shaping and coming up with your own research!

  2. Sid R. says:

    Very interesting to see you lay out your critera for radicalism, Amber! How would you classify Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking? It’s definitely radical in its own way.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your research!

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