People have very high expectations of what psychology can tell us about terrorists. Politicians and security forces want us to identify a “terrorist personality”, so we can identify those who might be attracted to terrorism before they become active. In fact terrorists come in all psychological shapes and sizes. Just like there are musicians with different personalities, and police officers with different personalities, and shopkeepers with different personalities, so there are terrorists with many different personalities, and it is impossible to predict from a personality assessment whether or not someone is likely to become involved in terrorism.
One of the problems of research into terrorism is sampling. Terrorists do not typically volunteer for psychological investigations. Those that do tend to be in custody, and have long ago disengaged from terrorist behaviour.
Horgan argues that the psychology of terrorism is in fact pre-paradigmatic, and that psychologist should focus for the time being on accurate and precise descriptions of terrorist behaviour, rather than attempts at explanation.
This is a hard book, which is definitely aimed at an undergraduate level or above. It will reward those who want to persevere with some advanced reading. That said, there are some highly readable bits and pieces. The snippets of transcriptions of interview with terrorists are fascinating.
Read. This. Book.
This one is in my top three psychology books for A level students to read this year. It is exciting because it sketches out some future directions that cognitive neuroscience is going to take in the coming years and decades.
When Galileo pointed his telescope at the night sky, he saw for the first time the machinery of planetary motion. This laid the foundations for our modern understanding of astronomy. The same is happening today in brain science. The ongoing improvement in brain scanning is driving new understanding of how the brain actually works. This book is a guide to the road ahead.
Not only that, but the first few chapters are a brilliant primer on the basics of neuroscience and biopsychology, and will be great revision for this part of the exam.
A really interesting read, and very accessible.
“A connectome is the totality of connections between the neurons in a nervous system.”
“In the nineteenth century, the American psychologist William James wrote eloquently of the stream of consciousness, the continuous flow of thoughts through the mind. But James failed to note that every stream has a bed. Without this groove in the earth, the water would not know in which direction to flow. Since the connectome defines the pathways along which neural activity can flow, we might regard it as the streambed of consciousness.
The metaphor is a powerful one. Over a long period of time, in the same way that the water of the stream slowly shapes the bed, neural activity changes the connectome. The two notions of the self – as both the fast-moving, ever-changing stream and the more stable but slowly transforming streambed – are thus inextricably linked. This book is about the self as the streambed, the self in the connectome – the self that has been neglected for too long.”
What are the warning signs that young people are becoming radicalised? Kamaldeep Bhui at Queen Mary University, London, applies a public health approach to this question, and attempts to find risk and resilience factors.
Radicalisation seems to be unrelated to poverty, political engagement, frequency of religious worship, or experience of discrimination or adversity. However there was a correlation between being born outside the UK, general ill health, and the experience of depression.
Bhui recommends that vulnerable young people are exposed to healthy sources of self-esteem, authentic religious teaching, and social support. These factors are known to protect young people from joining gangs; it is likely that they will also inoculate young people against the temptation to become radicalised.
New Scientist No. 3016, 11th April 2015, p24 – 25.
Whisper it quietly, but the medical model of mental health is about to fall. For decades, the medical profession has been in charge of mentally distressed people. They have pigeonholed “patients” with “diagnoses”, stuffed them with drugs, and imprisoned them in secure institutions. For all of this expenditure of money, time, and suffering, outcomes for mentally distressed people are far worse in the first world than the third world. This represents the most astonishing failure on behalf of psychiatry. But the emperor has no clothes, and we may be on the threshold of a paradigm shift in this discipline. This book, published 2013, is the first mainstream textbook to propose an alternative approach. It is a massive and demanding read, but start with Chapter 5 “Diagnosis and Formulation”, and take it from there if you have the stamina. There are great chapters on eating disorders and schizophrenia. The chapters on the history of mental distress are also fascinating. Diagnosis is dead. You heard it here first.