Extremist Radicalization in the Virtual Era: Analyzing the Neurocognitive Process of Online Radicalization

Emerging research on the etiology of violent radical political behavior has begun to explore the role of empathy in shaping an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and intentions that culminate in radicalization. The existing studies focus on persuasive influence upon an individual, but they overlook the centrality of empathy and that in the absence of empathy, persuasion is not salient. If an individual empathizes with a message then when it is processed by the receiver, the message is more likely to be considered realistic, relatable, believable, and therefore, persuasive. However, very little is known as to how messages should be designed to stimulate empathy in order to optimize their persuasive impact, which is particularly relevant to terrorist and extremist messaging given the lethal outcome of successful persuasion. This study examines the neurocognitive process of radicalization, specifically as it occurs within virtual online space, and how message content and production features have the potential to arouse empathy and generate radical-persuasive outcomes among the target audience. The findings of this research demonstrate how emotions, specifically that of empathy, can be stimulated in order to facilitate the process of radicalization, thus increasing the potential for violent radical political behavior.

Tags: neurocognitive, Radicalisation, radicalization