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The Psychology of Extremism

Part One
Motivational Imbalance at Different Levels of Analysis
This part features strikingly distinct approaches to the phenomenon of extremism, ranging all the way from the neural to the cultural perspectives and even to those perspectives on the borderline between these two poles. In six chapters, this volume explores Irrational Miswanting and Extreme Motivation, Attitudinal Extremism, Extreme Behaviour and Outcomes, Strict and Loose Boundaries, and the Evolution of Extremism across the Ages.
1- Irrational Miswanting and Extreme Motivation
This chapter argues that irrational miswanting and extreme motivation occurs when decision-taking is contributed through auxiliary means that call for the use of force, while predicted, experienced, and remembered utilities of its outcome are all low or even negative. The chapter provides examples of such behaviors with a comprehensive framework for irrational motivations conducive to extremism and to hurting the self and others. A telling example example of this is drug addiction, an extremist behaviour victimizing the addict, family, and work environment. Lots of those who were cured of addiction reverted to it once more, perhaps several times, under neurotic motivations such as stress and depression and upon meeting old drug addiction friends. What applies to drug addicts applies also to other states of extremist behaviour characterized by violence against others and triggered by quite irrational psychological motivations.
2- Attitudinal Extremism
One’s attitude to life in different situations is explored in detail in this chapter, including consumption, purchasing, central topics of public discourse, and voting in elections. Studies based on these attitudes contribute to our understanding of the nature and characteristics of extremism, with examples and explanations. It is indeed inevitable to conduct such studies of extremism which can exceed one’s ulterior conviction and grow into a malignant behaviour. Four major characteristics of attitudinal extremism include:
First: Attitude Polarization, this means that one is biased for a given party against another or at the expense of other parties or aspects.
Second: Attitude Strength, this refers to the individual’s adherence to his or her attitude; it can be resolute or precarious.
Third: Attitude Deviance, it is possible that even neutral or weak attitudes could reflect extremism if they are incredibly deviant or unusual, if measured against previous normal attitudes.
Fourthly: Attitude Social Disapproval, this characteristic differs from the foregoing one in that it represents disapproval of society and social norms.
Extremist attitude involves polarization, certainty regarding commitment to this polarization, and social disapproval.  The chapter draws a conclusion that further studies have yet to be conducted in the field for more clear-cut findings.
3- Extremist Behaviour and Outcomes
Contributors believe that extremist behaviour is one of those rare, highly-motivated phenomena. It must be noted that this type of behaviour (1) can be violent; (2) can lead to positive or negative outcomes depending on the issue at hand; and (3) the motive behind it is usually powerful and influential.  The third chapter substantiates these arguments from previous studies that emphasize the close passionate connection between the culprit and the issue at stake, with the proviso that passionate inclinations are not necessarily conducive bearing in mind extremist behaviour.
The chapter also explores the passionate aspect of to extremist behaviour as well as the associated formative environment. It displays the dualistic model of analyzing the effect of the passion in extremist behaviour, taking into consideration the individual’s personal characteristics and interaction with others. The dualistic model of analysis is defined as a powerful attachment to a certain object, activity, concept or person for the sake of love, appreciation, repeated investment of time and energy on a regular basis, or loyalty.  Within this framework,  the dualistic model distinguishes between the passion that is capable of adaptation and compatibility and that which is less adaptive and obsessive. In this sense, extremist behaviour is essentially associated with obsession.
The book differentiates between the passionate dimension of extremist behaviour in interacting with others and the same dimension on the level of one’s image It has been found out that the passion of obsession is conducive to extreme behaviour towards others such as religious violence, political violence, violence of competition, and violence of romantic, sexual, and sports relationships. As for one’s relationship to oneself, the passion of obsession is also conducive to extremist behaviour as in addiction, bankruptcy, and hygienic, physical, and health problems.
You can read more about this topic in Issue 34 of Book Reviews.

4/20/2022 2:52 PM