A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Preliminary findings on Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the US

A new research brief and project fact sheet detail preliminary findings from START’s Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) project, with information on three waves of radicalization that occurred since World War II, risk factors for radicalization and characteristics, conditions and events associated with radicalization.

When completed the PIRUS dataset will include information on approximately 1,800 individuals who have radicalized to violent and non-violent extremism in the United States and 60 to 120 case studies of a subset of these individuals (non-violent extremism refers to individuals who engage in illegal extremist activity short of violence or who belong to a violent extremist group but do not participate in violent activities). The preliminary findings validated some elements of "common wisdom," while also revealing interesting new insights.[1]

Among extremists, loners and individuals with psychological issues were more likely to be violent, while group dynamics, ideological factors and relationship issues were common among all extremists. These findings generally fit common wisdom on radicalization, but other findings diverge from prevalent assumptions concerning this phenomenon.

Some of this involves differences among ideologies; for example, Islamist extremists tended to be part of tight-knit groups, while Far Right extremists were more likely to be part of groups that experienced intra-group competition. The findings also showed interesting and policy-relevant similarities across ideologies, such as the fact that the prevalence of loners, psychological issues and prison radicalization is equivalent among Far Left, Far Right and Islamist extremists.

Read the Research Brief, “Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States: Preliminary Findings.”

The PIRUS project is a two-year study, currently in its first year, which will combine a quantitative dataset of radicalized individuals with in-depth case studies on radicalization processes. This project was supported by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.


[1] It must be noted that these findings represent one third of the complete planned dataset; the results may thus change when the full project is completed.