Week 3- External Factors of Radicalization

Apr 23, 2022

Welcome back!
This week, I focused on continuing my research and outlining the paper that I will present at the end of this project while the graduate students were on break. I explored multiple empirical studies that focused on the impact of external factors on radicalization. The main topics I focused on were the physiological effects of sleep disorders, isolation and conspiracy theories. On these topics, I have found the following;

Sleep disorders:
To research my topic of desire, I focused on the emotional disturbances that sleep disorders might cause. Multiple studies correlated aggressive behavior and violence to a lack of sleep because the disruption of sleep harmed prefrontal cortical functioning. (The PCF is responsible for cognitive control functions such as modulating attention, impulse, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility.) In addition, in systemic long-term sleep deprivation, studies have shown that normal physiological and neurophysiological mechanisms such as attention, emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and decision-making are disrupted. Prolonged sleep deprivation (over 20 hours) for 48-54 days can lead to psychological trauma resembling psychosis and affects the areas in the brain such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC), amygdala, and hippocampus which are “responsible for memory retrieval and the narration of an autobiographical self”. Since the long-term damage to these areas are not repaired after normal levels of sleep are restored, damage to these impulse control systems may cause antisocial and risky behavior. It is known that adolescents are susceptible to sleep deprivation due to many factors such as gaming, schoolwork, and social media, and since adolescence is a critical time for brain development, any damage to the brain can be a long-term concern. For example, gamers have a 31% higher risk of poor sleep quality, with almost half of them reporting 5-6 hours of sleep per night. Due to the concerning nature of online gaming, which has the potential to be a breeding ground for racist, sexist and violent comments, it is incredibly dangerous for someone who gets very little sleep to hear those comments repeated in such areas from their peers. With the lack of sleep, comes a lack of judgment, which is why a lot of gaming lobbies are hubs for radicalization or recruiting.

In another empirical study, they researched the connection between COVID-19 conspiracy theories and violent radicalization. The study concluded that there was a correlation between the psychological distress that COVID-19 caused, which led many young adults to make sense of the current situation via the internet, and the likelihood of these people starting to endorse violent means to get their points across. The psychological distress that COVID caused, without the ability for people to reach out to their loved ones left many people susceptible to extremist ideologies. These views claimed to explain all of their grievances and promised a way to fix them by pointing the blame at a certain group or ideology. The only way to fix these things seemed to be through acts of defiance, however, the conspiracy theories that people were exposed to caused them to accept acts of violence as a reasonable response. This was a perfect example of how isolation and distress caused by external factors such as socio-economic disparities made average people believe in radical thoughts. The only way to truly combat radicalization is the ensure that people have access to reliable psychological assistance to mitigate the radicalization efforts of such divisive conspiracy theories.

Overall, I have noticed that the state of the world in the past decade has made it a perfect breeding ground for divisive politics and radicalization efforts. We need to go to their core and see where they stem from to fix these issues. Once we figure out what makes a 17-year-old kid shoot three protestors who believe in opposing ideologies, we will be able to implement widespread measures of deradicalization.
Next week, I will be in the cell culture lab doing research learning about the basic lab procedures, and working on preparing extracellular matrices to observe cells.
See you then,

2 Replies to “Week 3- External Factors of Radicalization”

  1. Luc M. says:

    Interesting research on how sleep disorders and isolation can lead to radicalization! I was intrigued by your discussion of video games and radicalization, did you find any research that correlated gaming lobbies with radicalization and recruiting?

  2. Sid R. says:

    Interesting to learn about the connection between COVID-19 and radicalization, it definitely seems that isolation and distress are some of the factors responsible. Do you think that “radicalization” is more promininent in some countries due to differing responses to the pandemic?

    Keep up the good work, Amber!

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