Social influence in the online recruitment of terrorists and terrorist sympathizers: Implications for social psychology research

Rosanna E. Guadagno, Adam Lankford, Nicole Lori Muscanell, Bradley M. Okdie, Debra M. McCallum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Since its inception, people have constantly found new and unexpected ways to communicate via the Internet. One such use has been the recruitment of new members by terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda (Riedel, 2007). Al Qaeda uses social influence techniques to induce individuals to become terrorist sympathizers (Burton & Stewart, 2008; Gerwehr & Daly, 2005; Al-Saleh, 2007). By starting with simple online requests and then gradually requesting increasing commitments to the cause, a terrorist organization may influence its targets to support far more extreme ideologies than they otherwise would. As proposed by self-perception theory (Bern, 1972), the new converts may form increasingly radical attitudes to be consistent with their increasingly radical behavior. At the same time, enhancing the salience of the social identity of group membership may also amplify the influence of such recruiting tactics. Implications for social influence research on online terrorist recruiting are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-56
Number of pages32
JournalRevue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

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