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March 7, 2005

Press Release, March 8 (WG 1)

Thematic Subject Area I: The Causes and Underlying Factors of Terrorism
Working Group 1
Individual and Psychological Explanations of Terrorism

This working group will confront the obvious question, “Why do terrorists kill?”. Taking into account both individual and group psychology, it will investigate the following:

  • Whether terrorists are psychologically normal.
  • What are the motivations of people who join terrorist groups and explanations of why some are prepared even to sacrifice their own lives.
  • The dynamics of terrorist groups, and the importance of the role played by charismatic leaders of these groups.
The role of education, and what can be done to reduce the attraction of terrorist groups to vulnerable individuals, will also be addressed. The conclusions of this working group and 16 others will be incorporated into the Agenda of Madrid, which will be published on March 11th, 2005.

Working group members will include:

Working group coordinator:

  • Jerrold Post (USA), professor of political psychology at George Washington University. Extensive career in psychological profiling for the U.S. government, mostly with the CIA. Author of numerous books, such as Political Paranoia: The Psycho-Politics of Hatred (Yale 1997).


  • Scott Atran (USA), research director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. Professor of anthropology and psychology, University of Michigan. Expert in Middle East history and suicide terror. Author of In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Oxford 2002).
  • Dipak Gupta (USA), Chair in International Security at San Diego State University. Currently writing a book on the life-cycle of terrorist group, he has authored six others, including Path to Collective Madness: A Study in Social Order and Political Pathology (Praeger 2001).
  • Nasra Hassan (Pakistan-Austria), director of the United Nations Information Service in Vienna, spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. A Pakistani researcher on Islamist militancy, whose work on suicide terrorists has been widely published.
  • John Horgan (Ireland), lecturer in Applied Psychology at University College Cork, Ireland. Accomplished expert in the psychology of terrorist behaviour with numerous publications on this and related topics. Author of The Psychology of Terrorism (Taylor and Francis 2005).
  • Ariel Merari (Israel), Professor of Psychology at Tel Aviv University. Has studied political terrorism and published widely on this area for nearly 30 years. His work during the recent decade has focused on suicide terrorism and on deterrence.
  • Marc Sageman (USA), senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia. Formerly a CIA case officer, he is now a forensic psychiatrist. Authored Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania 2004).
  • Alexander Schmid (Netherlands-Austria), formerly officer in charge of the Terrorism Prevention Branch at the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, Vienna. More than one hundred publications, most prominently Political Terrorism (Transaction Books 1983).
  • Chris Stout (USA), founding director at the Center for Global Initiatives, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois. Leading clinical psychiatrist, who is editor of the four-volume The Psychology of Terrorism (Greenwood 2002).
  • Jeff Victoroff (USA), Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Southern California. Neurologist and Psychiatrist, research focuses on the interaction between evolutionary, behavioural and social factors of human aggression, focusing on collective violence and terrorism.Stevan Weine (USA), Director, International Center on Responses to Catastrophes, University of Illinois at Chicago. Expert on familial, cultural, and historical dimensions of political violence. A National Institute of Mental Health Career Scientist and author of Testimony after Catastrophe (Rutgers 2005).

With the collaboration ofSafe Democracy Foundation
Members of the Club de Madrid

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