- Zoey Reeve
- Politics and International Relations School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
- Edinburgh UK
- Research Interests
- Social psychology
The Social Identity Theory of Radicalisation in Intergroup Conflict
- BSc Psychology, Conventry University
- MScEcon Terrorism and International Relations, Aberystwyth University
- MSc(R) Politics, University of Edinburgh
My thesis aims to offer an interdisciplinary, multi-level explanation of the process of radicalisation towards violence in intergroup conflict. The main novel contribution of this project is the integration of Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1978) and Parochial Altruism (Choi and Bowles, 2007) to form an individual-to-group level psychological explanation of altruistic/cooperative, and hostile intergroup and intragroup, interaction. This integration forms the Social Identity Theory of Radicalisation in Intergroup Conflict (SITRIC). SITRIC attempts to explain the individuals’ journey towards social identity (group membership) salience, and how this general process (i.e. it occurs in all people to some extent) may differ across individuals leading to differential behavioural outcomes under certain conditions. These salient social identities (e.g. family, tribe, clan, nationality, religion – the latter is a particularly powerful social identity) are manifestations of proximate psychological mechanisms that may have evolved to maintain the differentiated behavioural tendencies that humans, past and present, have tended to show towards groups they are members of, and those which they are not. Namely, individuals in group contexts tend to be more cooperative and altruistic towards members of their ingroup than towards outgroup members. The role of religion – which has many ingroup enhancing features (e.g. promotion of trust, cohesion, cooperation etc), is an important one in terms of a salient social identity. That is, the unique aspects of individual religions are less important here, than the fundamental provision of a salient group membership that thus defines individuals on the basis of their groups’ shared belief system and values, whilst distinguishing them from others.
Although Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1978) has generated a mass of empirical and experimental support, the same cannot be said of the recently developed concept of Parochial Altruism (Choi and Bowles, 2007), offering an opportunity to develop it further in this research. The methodological aspect of this thesis has resulted in the development of an experimental tool designed to measure (implicit, or subconscious) cognitive and behavioural tendencies of cooperation, altruism, and hostility at the within-group and between-group levels with the aim of linking individual cognitive mechanisms (and behaviour) with group level behaviours of cooperation, and/or hostility.
SITRIC can be viewed as a generalised theory of intergroup/intragroup interaction (in terms of cooperation, altruism and hostility), which may help to explain a wide variety of social phenomena. However, one important extension of the project is the application of SITRIC to the process of radicalisation towards violence in intergroup conflict, particularly Islamic extremist terrorism. It is thought that SITRIC may be appropriately applied to terrorism by integrating it with existing critical terrorism studies that explore the process of radicalisation at the macro and meso levels (e.g. Krueger and Maleèková, 2003; Crenshaw, 1981; Sageman, 2005; Richardson, 2006), from different disciplinary perspectives (particularly sociology, politics, criminology, economics). SITRIC may help to provide an integrateable (interdisciplinary), individual-group level explanation of why some people choose to support and/or become members of groups using/advocating terrorism. On the basis of the same underlying cognitive mechanisms, SITRIC offers possible routes to surpass in-group/out-group prejudices and identify ways of dissolving group boundaries and promoting cooperation instead.Supervisor
Dr. Dominic Johnson
FundingSupported through the John Templeton Foundation
Research Group Membership
The Adaptive Logic of Religious Beliefs and Behaviors (project website)