Saturday, April 29, 2006

"I believe the psychological profiling of Islamic terrorists is a complete waste of time."

Dr. John Horgan, psychologist, at an anti-terror conference:
"It will not work. It means different things to different people and there is the wrong assumption that if we can identify the traits of known terrorists we can move into predictions.

"The terrorists are not a homogenous population and we simply do not understand why some move from legal activities to illegal.

"Too much is based on a limited range of people and we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg."

Despite Dr Horgan's comments, there was a good deal of profiling on display at this conference.

Peter Nessen of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment had analysed the London suicide bombers and came up with a typology, which, he said, provided important lessons.

He identified four types of terrorist in the four young men who blew themselves and others up:

* the entrepreneur
* the protégé
* the misfit
* the drifter.
-"Seeking out the suicide bombers." Paul Reynolds, BBC News.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Cheryl Fuller, Ph.D. said...

Way back in the late 60's when I was in grad school, we learned that as psychologists, we were pretty poor at predicting behavior. I can't see that anything has happened to change that assessment.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Greg P said...

The most striking thing to me about terrorism as it is currently waged as part of a suicidal act, is that it contradicts some of the Victorian notions about people's behavior, notions that still had some kind of life until recently.
I refer to the ideas that people will always/generally behave ultimately with self-preservation as the most intractable feature, and also that intelligent people have an innate "goodness" and act for the common good.

But of course there is a strong manipulative aspect of faith-based terrorism that resembles the strange behavior of religious/quasi-religious cults we have seen in the US.
Although the methods are different, there probably is a lot in common with cult-leaders who brainwash, terrorism-encouraging zealots, and totalitarian brutal dictators (like Saddam Hussein or Josef Stalin). What is driving these people, who encourage others to brutally and indiscriminately kill?

7:18 AM  
Blogger Joel said...

All this reminds me of the kinds of tests personnel officers used to inflict on job applicants: check to see if the loops are completed, if there are scratch-outs, etc. Watch what words they use. Make them take an honesty test (which serves sociopaths well.)

The good people who present themselves honestly will be screwed and the evil ones granted access.

7:38 PM  

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