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: 91781 Find in a Library
Title: Psychology of the Terrorist (From Terrorism and Beyond, P 119-124, 1982 - See NCJ-91780)
Author(s): R Fried
Date Published: 1982
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Rand Corporation
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
Sale Source: Rand Corporation
1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States of America

National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Psychology's task is to consider how political, historical, familial, group dynamic, organic, and even accidental factors affect and are reflected in a terrorist's awareness and behavior.
Abstract: The terrorist is more likely than the nonterrorist to be an individual who sees politics as highly relevant. This motivation is easily understood in a homeless displaced person, but more difficult to comprehend if an individual comes from a peaceful, democratic country. In the last situation, the terrorist often identifies with a small beleaguered country or a group of displaced persons. Even terrorists who are clearly psychotic may have political motives understandable in their own frames of reference, and their behavior may be affected by awareness of political realities. Terrorist acts are designed to attract attention. For the individual with highly personal motivations, this audience may be a particular person, whereas an organized political group may want to pressure a government. Terrorists must be willing to risk their lives, but there is a continuum along which terrorists can be ranged. Death-seeking behavior suggests a depressive component in the terrorist's personality. This individual may feel empty, anhedonic, and incapable of forming interpersonal relationships. The terrorist's interpersonal world is likely to consist of three groups: idealized heroes and a small set of comrades, the enemies, and a large world of shadow figures. These may reflect the terrorist's own personality: the ego ideal, the despised parts of the self, and the not-quite-alive everyday self. Professionals have described Palestinians as having a Samson complex, being willing to die if in doing so they attract attention, win admiration, and inflict damage on the enemy. However, some terrorists may not exhibit this complex, but appear clinically normal. Random incidents, such as profound disillusionment or killing of a comrade, may push a potential terrorist into violence. Finally, the aging process may turn a terrorist into a law-abiding citizen.
Index Term(s): Psychological evaluation; Terrorist ideologies; Terrorist profiles
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.