skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 70591 Find in a Library
Title: Psychodynamics of Terrorism
Journal: Terrorism  Volume:1  Issue:3 and 4  Dated:(1978)  Pages:237-254
Author(s): A Kaplan
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 18
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses the psychodynamics of terrorism; the distinction between target and victim; and terrorism as the pursuit of the absolute end, as a response to lack of self-esteem, and as a kind of symbol-magic.
Abstract: Terrorism can be defined as the use of force to produce a certain fearful state of mind and by the evocation of fear in someone other than those to whom the force is applied. In addition, the demands made by terrorists (the conditions they set) can be distinguished from the aim of their act of terror which relates to the targets. Acts of terror may also intend to impress audiences, either the general audience of public opinion, or special audiences consisting of potential rivals or allies of the terrorist. Characteristics of terrorism include pursuit of an absolute end, such as national liberation, as the absolute standard of morality; self-righteousness and a demonization of the target; a renewed sense of masculinity, for male terrorists, and the sense of acquiring a new identity; and a sense of performing on the stage of history by being able to compel powerful and prestigious persons. In addition, terrorism embodies the magic of symbols and of violence. Combating terrorism includes unwavering refusals to release arrested terrorists for trial by others, rejection of all terrorist demands for the release of those imprisoned for previous terrorist acts, and punishment of accessories before and after the fact. Terrorists should be tried as individuals, rather than as a group, and the psychic distance with which the terrorist is responded to should be increased. Media coverage should be minimized and penal sentences, rather than capital punishment, should be inflicted.
Index Term(s): Counter-terrorism tactics; Psychological warfare; Terrorism prosecution; Terrorist profiles; Terrorist tactics
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.