The Psychology of Political Violence

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The Psychology of Political Violence
A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump wears a gas mask and holds a bust of him after he and hundreds of others stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC/Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Both jihadis and those who stormed the Capitol…are anti-establishment groups. They both see themselves as fighting an identity-based conflict. The jihadists feel they’re protecting the Muslim ummah from the rest of the world. And the insurrectionists felt there was some evil out there that was hurting their ‘group’ and they had to rise up to defend their side.

Nafees Hamid is a cognitive scientist of political violence who wrote an essay for Newlines Magazine on why people join violent groups.

In this podcast with Newlines’ Faisal Al Yafai, he discusses his essay, “The Neuroscience of ‘Devoted Actors’ Within Extremist Groups”, explores similarities between jihadists who joined ISIS and the insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol – and explains why neuroscience shows that a feeling of being excluded can change what people are willing to fight – and die – for.

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