How a Terrorist Brain Works?

In one of the most coordinated terrorist activities in the recent past, IS extremists killed hundreds of people in Paris. The incident was a cruel reminder of the horror of 1972 Munich Olympic, 9/11 WTC attack, Charlie Hebdo, and 26/11 terrorist attacks in the past.

It has again brought out the question of dealing with terrorism and terrosrists on the forefront. Can they be exterminated by bombing? Any sensible person will say—NO.

Can you deal with them unless you don’t understand them? So, the basic question remains—what goes in the mind of a terrorist and how do they think? This is a psycho-ideological war—and can’t be dealt with traditional warfare.

What’s the biggest misconception about terrorists?

A big misconception about the terrorists’ group is that they hire emotionally disturbed people—as they can be easily misguided. However, the truth is that dreaded terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al Qaida, LTTE, HAMAS, Jamat-Ud-Dava never hires emotionally unstable people to carry out important terrorist operations.

Dr. Jerrold Post, current professor of political psychology at George Washington University, and former CIA psychologist studied the behavior and thinking of terrorists for two decades, explains: “You wouldn’t want to have an emotionally disturbed individual in the delta forces or the British SAS commandos – they’d be a security risk. Terrorists don’t want to have an emotionally unstable person in their operational squad.”

Why they are so passionate to kill?

Before delving deeper in their mind, the assessment is important about how they are prepared. How a man or women can be so passionate to dye by killing themselves. In most of the part of the world and especially in the west, it’s difficult to understand such phenomenon.

The situation in the middle-east, however, is quite different where it’s more a part of the collective identity.Such people before becoming a part of the operational squad are constantly exposed to radicalized thought-process from the early childhood.

How Jihadi John or Osama Bin Laden thinks

Is it possible to definitively know what was going on in the minds of those who attacked on Paris? Can we ever know how people like Jihadi John thinks? The biggest problems with scientists and researchers is that such perpetrators of heinous acts –are hardly accessible for them. So they are not able to definitively assess their behavior.

Unless and until, you don’t spend time with people such as Jihadi John or Osama Bin Laden, you can’t understand their thought patterns correctly. But, researchers have tried to decipher through studies done on numerous terrorists caught during various wars. Here are few point that sheds light on their thought patterns thinking of such terrorists:

  • They don’t think people as individuals; they see your pain as good.
  • Their mind is trained to obey, not to reason.
  • They don’t have a sense of self.
  • They have blind fixation about their own cause.
  • Can a human brain radicalized?

    The weight of human brain is just three pounds, and the 80 percent part is water. In such a crammed space, there are more than 100 billion neurons—and each neuron is capable of doing as many as 150,000 individual interactions with other neurons. These interactions are largely responsible for our origin of behavior. Human brain function is also open to the external influence, and so, the brain can be radicalized through propaganda or misinformation.

    Our brain is highly susceptible to the inputs it gets from the friends, news media, relatives, teachers and neurons keeps remodeling themselves. The changes in the external environment affects the interpretation of sensory data of neurons. Our neurons are highly adaptive in nature.

    Questions such as—who are my enemies? Is my environment safe can change the brain circuitry and change the behavior.

    What it means is that—a brain is flexible and it adjusts itself in an unpredictable environment. But this also makes it vulnerable to malicious information and false information. Scientific American magazine has done a fantastic article: What Causes Someone to Act on Violent Impulses and Commit Murder?

    The truth remains—a terrorist mind doesn’t think the way normal people do. You can’t reason with them, as the reasoning part of their brain becomes defunct.

    (Source: Dying to kill: The Mind of the Terrorist by : Silvia H. CardosoPh.D., Paul B. DavisPh.D., Carl Goldberg and from the research of Dr. Robert K. Smith, How a Terrorist Thinks)


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    An active journalist and blogger with more than a decade of experience. He has worked with various national and international publications. Sharing behind the curtain news is his passion.

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