Lone actor terrorism: what current START-research tells us

START, the US-based „National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism“ has just released some research on profiling „lone wolf-terrorists“ as well as a temporal pattern-analysis for lone perpetrators in the USA (of course, putting the Ottawa-incident in perspective, too) that contains quite a bit of unexpected findings.

Psychology of Lone-actor Terrorists (McCauley & Moskalenko):

  • „Research shows no useful profile for terrorists;
  • But most terrorists belong to group or organization, only recently looking separately at lone-actor terrorist;
  • Seems likely there is a profile for lone-actor terrorists, because individual differences more important for terrorists acting as individuals“ (ebd.);
  • Look especially for EMOTIONAL profiles;
  • Two possible profiles of lone-actor terrorists: Disconnected-Disordered (DD) and Caring-Compelled (CC)
  • DD: Personal negative emotions (anger, shame, humiliation, depression) and weapons experience;
  • CC: Negative emotions by identification (outrage, shame, humiliation) and seek weapons.

Geospatial and Temporal Patterns of Lone Actor Terrorism (Smith et al.):

  • „Lone terrorists are significantly better educated, more likely to be female, and less likely to be married than group terrorists;
  • Lone terrorists commit fewer precursor behaviors and are less likely to successfully complete the attack than group terrorists;
  • There is no difference in the length of the planning cycle for lone terrorists and group terrorists;
  • Lone terrorists live significantly farther from where they prepare for an incident and where the incident occurs than group terrorists;
  • Lone terrorists have a significantly longer “life cycle” than group terrorists.“ (Smith et al.)

You want to read more?
Have a look at the original presentations by Brent L. Smith, Paxton Roberts, Jeff Gruenewald and Brent Klein, respectively Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko!




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