The Neurocognitive Process of Digital Radicalization: A Theoretical Model and Analytical Framework

Tiffiany Howard, Brach Poston, Stephen D. Benning


Recent studies suggest that empathy induced by narrative messages can effectively facilitate persuasion and reduce psychological reactance. Although limited, emerging research on the etiology of radical political behavior has begun to explore the role of narratives in shaping an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and intentions that culminate in radicalization. The existing studies focus exclusively on the influence of narrative persuasion on an individual, but they overlook the necessity of empathy and that in the absence of empathy, persuasion is not salient. We argue that terrorist organizations are strategic in cultivating empathetic-persuasive messages using audiovisual materials, and disseminating their message within the digital medium. Therefore, in this paper we propose a theoretical model and analytical framework capable of helping us better understand the neurocognitive process of digital radicalization.


Online Radicalization; Digital Terrorism; Strategic Narratives; Propaganda; Messaging

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