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

Root causes of radicalization: the terror-contagion hypothesis


What are the root causes of mass violence terrorism? Examining this question led to a novel hypothesis that violent radicalization leading to terrorism operates as a system of social contagion. A terror contagion exploits existing grievances and moral outrage well suited for radicalizing within a high-risk population. After a terrorist incident, media broadcasts of cultural scripts convey both a template violent ideology and a template method for mass violence. Radicalization can result when high-risk people receive these cultural scripts sharing self-similarity and notoriety bias to the perpetrator and their template ideology of grievance and outrage. Following the template method results in subsequent completed terror incidents creating their own media broadcasts, perpetuating the contagion. In this article, we share our methods, findings, and discuss the implications of a terror-contagion hypothesis. We describe experiments and testable predictions to build confidence in the terror-contagion hypothesis and our progress in them. © 2023 System Dynamics Society.


Publication Information

Full Citation:

Clancy, Timothy, Bland Addison, Oleg Pavlov, and Khalid Saeed. 2023. “Root causes of radicalization: the terror-contagion hypothesis.” System Dynamics Review 40(1). doi: 10.1002/sdr.1749.

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