This paper considers the cognitive underpinnings of violent extremism. We conceptualize extremism as stemming from a motivational imbalance in which a given need “crowds out” other needs and liberates behavior from their constraints. In the case of violent extremism, the dominant need in question is the quest for personal significance and the liberated behavior is aggression employed as means to the attainment of significance. The cognitive mechanisms that enable this process are ones of learning and inference, knowledge activation, selective attention, and inhibition. These are discussed via examples from relevant research.
Kruglanski, Arie W., Jessica R. Fernandez, Adam R. Factor, and Ewa Szumowska. 2019. "Cognitive Mechanisms in Violent Extremism." Cognition. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027718303032