Death Reminders Increase Agreement With Extremist Views but Not Violent Extremist Action in Indonesian Muslims

I’ve co-authored an article with Muhammad Iqbal, Kerry O’Brien and Ana-Maria Bliuc on the effects of death awareness on young Indonesians’ support for extremism and violent extremism. The article can be accessed here.
Muslim and non-Muslim Indonesian students in Australia were randomly assigned to an MS (Mortality Salience, i.e. we asked them to think about death) or control condition. Following a delay, participants were asked to rate their agreement/disagreement with another Indonesian Muslim student’s (bogus) statements toward extremist views and violent extremist actions. After controlling for alienation, Muslim students in the MS condition reported significantly higher levels of support for extremist views than did non-Muslims. However there was no significant effect of MS on support violent extremist action in either Muslims or non-Muslims. The results suggest that reminders of death may lead young Muslims to be more supportive of politically and religiously extreme views, but not violent action.
In conclusion, our article suggests that death awareness does not appear to be a cause of engagement in violent action as previous research suggests (see for example this article on the effects of MS on the support for martyrdom among Iranian Muslims).

How ISIS’ language changed over time: more concern with females and more “net-speak”

We (myself and Ana-Maria Bliuc) just published a brief research-paper in the Italian magazine “Security, Terrorism and Society“. We used the computerized text analysis program LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) to investigate the evolution of the language across the first 11 Issues of Dabiq.

Our paper shows ISIS’ increasing concern with females. This is especially important because it shows that ISIS needs to attract not only fighters but also women in order to create a society that is not only composed by warriors but also by families, where people can live an “ordinary” life.  This is a cornerstone of ISIS “utopia”, which is a powerful radicalization motive. The next figure shows the increased concern with females in ISIS language.


Additionally, our analysis shows that ISIS increased its use of internet jargon (for example abbreviations like “btw”, “lol”, thx”). We believe that this suggests that ISIS complies with the requirements of the internet environment, and aims to connect with the identities of young individuals. The next figure shows the increase in “net-speak” in ISIS language.


We believe that the analysis of ISIS language with LIWC categories is particularly interesting because it offers insights about the motives, emotions and concerns of the terrorist group. Research in the field of psychology of political leadership showed that the success of a leader depends on a match between the personal characteristics, the historical context and the followers’ psychological characteristics. The psychological structures of a text can generate identification in the audiences that recognize themselves in such structures and motives: the fact that ISIS is more concerned about females, means for example that ISIS is trying to connect with females and with people concerned with females. The fact that ISIS uses more “net-speak” means that the groups wants to connect with people who use the same language.

This is just a descriptive research that we hope can generate discussion. More research is needed in this area: we (myself and Ana-Maria) conducted more studies on ISIS language that are under review and will (hopefully) appear soon on this blog.