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Male Youth Perceptions of Violent Extremism: towards a Test of Rational Choice Theory

Dhami, Mandeep K.; Murray, Jennifer


Mandeep K. Dhami


Understanding how people perceive the pros and cons of risky behaviors such as terrorism or violent extremism represents a first step in developing research testing rational choice theory aiming to explain and predict peoples’ intentions to engage in, or support, these behaviors. Accordingly, the present study provides a qualitative, exploratory analysis of a sample of 57 male youths’ perceptions of the benefits and drawbacks of: (a) accessing a violent extremist website, (b) joining a violent extremist group, and (c) leaving such a group. Youth perceived significantly more drawbacks than benefits of joining a violent extremist group and accessing a violent extremist website. The perceived benefits of engagement referred to gaining knowledge/awareness, being part of a group/similar people, and fighting the enemy/for a cause. The drawbacks referred to being exposed to negative material and emotions, having violent/criminal beliefs and behaviors, and getting in trouble with the law. The perceived benefits of disengagement referred to no longer committing illegal acts, and regaining independence/not being manipulated. The drawbacks referred to exposing oneself to harm and reprisal. These findings provide an insight into how male youth think about (dis)engagement in violent extremism, and can inform future quantitative research designed to explain and predict (dis)engagement in violent extremism. Eventually, such research may inform the development of evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2016
Online Publication Date Sep 20, 2016
Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Mar 24, 2016
Publicly Available Date Mar 21, 2017
Journal Spanish Journal of PSychology
Print ISSN 1988-2904
Electronic ISSN 1988-2904
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue E51
Pages 1-10
Keywords Rational choice; risk perception; violent extremism; terrorism;
Public URL
Contract Date Mar 24, 2016