Radicalization and Mass Violence from a Beckerian Perspective: Conceptual and Empirical Considerations

Mark Dechesne

Abstract


This paper considers the conceptual and empirical merits of Ernest Becker’s analysis of radicalization and mass violence. Starting with several cases showing a clear link between exposure to traumatic events and violence, Ernest Becker’s idea that mass violence should be understood as an attempt to overcome the fear of death is examined in the light of recent experimental social psychological research, field research on the attitudinal effects of threatening situations, clinical modeling of the relation between fear and anger, and insights from neuroscience. Becker’s ideas, in conjunction with empirical research, may contribute to an understanding of how humans can behave under extreme circumstances.


Full Text:

PDF

References


Arndt, J., Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., & Solomon, S. (1997). Subliminal exposure to death-related stimuli increases defense of the cultural worldview. Psychological Science, 8(5), 379-385.

Becker, E. (1971). The birth and death of meaning an interdisciplinary perspective on the problem of man (Vol. 2nd ed.). New York: The Free Press, etc.

Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York, NY US: Free Press.

Becker, E. (1975). Escape from evil. New York: Free Press.

Bonanno, G. A., & Diminich, E. D. (2013). Annual research review: Positive adjustment to adversity—Trajectories of minimal–impact resilience and emergent resilience. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(4), 378-401.

Bonanno, G. A., & Mancini, A. D. (2012). Beyond resilience and PTSD: Mapping the heterogeneity of responses to potential trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(1), 74-83.

Burke, B. L., Martens, A., & Faucher, E. H. (2010). Two decades of terror management theory: A meta-analysis of mortality salience research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(2), 155-195.

Chemtob, C. M., Novaco, R. W., Hamada, R. S., Gross, D. M., & Smith, G. (1997). Anger regulation deficits in combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10(1), 17-36.

Dechesne, M., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2004). Terror's Epistemic Consequences: Existential Threat and the Quest for Certainty and Closure. In J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.), Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology. (pp. 247-262). New York, NY US: Guilford Press.

Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York, NY US: Viking.

Greenberg, J. (2012). Terror management theory: From genesis to revelations. In P. R. Shaver & M. Mikulincer (Eds.), Meaning, mortality, and choice: The social psychology of existential concerns. (pp. 17-35).

Washington, DC US: American Psychological Association.

Greenberg, J., Koole, S. L., & Pyszczynski, T. (2004). Handbook of Experimental Existential Psychology. New York, NY US: Guilford Press.

Gündel, H., O'Connor, M.-F., Littrell, L., Fort, C., & Lane, R. D. (2003). Functional Neuroanatomy of Grief: An fMRI Study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(11), 1946-1953.

Han, S., Qin, J., & Ma, Y. (2010). Neurocognitive processes of linguistic cues related to death. Neuropsychologia, 48(12), 3436-3442.

Hirschberger, G., Pyszczynski, T., & Ein-Dor, T. (2010). An ever-dying people: The existential underpinnings of Israelis' perceptions of war and conflict. Cahiers Internationaux de Psychologie Sociale, 87(3), 443-457.

Jonas, E., & Fritsche, I. (2013). Destined to die but not to wage war: How existential threat can contribute to escalation or de-escalation of violent intergroup conflict. American Psychologist, 68(7), 543-558.

Lifton, R. J. (2011). Witness to an extreme century: A memoir. New York, NY US: Free Press.

Martens, A., Kosloff, S., Greenberg, J., Landau, M. J., & Schmader, T. (2007). Killing begets killing: Evidence from a bug-killing paradigm that initial killing fuels subsequent killing. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(9), 1251-1264.

Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York, NY US: Oxford University Press.

Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York, NY US: Viking.

Pyszczynski, T., Abdollahi, A., Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., Cohen, F., & Weise, D. (2006). Mortality Salience, Martyrdom, and Military Might: The Great Satan Versus the Axis of Evil. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(4), 525-537.

Pyszczynski, T., Wicklund, R. A., Floresku, S., Koch, H., Gauch, G., Solomon, S., et al. (1996). Whistling in the dark: Exaggerated consensus estimates in response to incidental reminders of mortality. Psychological Science, 7(6), 332-336.

Quirin, M., Loktyushin, A., Arndt, J., Küstermann, E., Lo, Y.-Y., Kuhl, J., et al. (2012). Existential neuroscience: A functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of neural responses to reminders of one’s mortality. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7(2), 193-198.

Taylor, S. E. (2012). Tend and befriend theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (Vol 1). (pp. 32-49). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2015 Mark Dechesne

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 2363-9849 

Proud Member of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)