New VOX-Pol Open Access Article: Engaging with Online Extremist Material

VOX-Pol is pleased to present a new, open access research article by former VOX-Pol Fellow Zoey Reeve. The study, titled Engaging with Online Extremist Material: Experimental Evidence was published in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence online on 24 July 2019.


Despite calls from governments to clamp down on violent extremist material in the online sphere, in the name of preventing radicalisation and therefore terrorism research investigating how people engage with extremist material online is surprisingly scarce. The current paper addresses this gap in knowledge with an online experiment. A fictional extremist webpage was designed and (student) participants chose how to engage with it. . A mortality salience prime (being primed to think of death) was also included. Mortality salience did not influence engagement with the material but the material itself may have led to disidentification with the ingroup. Whilst interaction with the material was fairly low, those that did engage tended to indicate preference for hierarchy and dominance in society, stronger identification with the ingroup, higher levels of radicalism, and outgroup hostility. More engagement with the online extremist material was also associated with increased likelihood of explicitly supporting the extremist group. These findings show that indoctrination, socialisation, and ideology are not necessarily required for individuals to engage attitudinally or behaviourally with extremist material. This study is not conducted on the dependent variable, therefore shedding light on individuals who do not engage with extremist material.


Dr. Zoey Reeve was VOX-Pol’s 2017/18 Research Fellow, based at University College London. Zoey’s research used Social and Evolutionary Psychology theory and methods, to think through and investigate online radicalisation processes. She focused particularly on how normal psychological processes and mechanisms can help us understand how and why people engage with violent extremist content and some ultimately participate in terrorism.

Zoey’s past research utilised experimental tools, generating new data to investigate radicalisation in non-terrorist/extremist participants. Zoey was awarded a PhD in Political Science by the University of Edinburgh in 2015, She currently works at the University of Newcastle as a Lecturer in Research Methods.


All VOX-Pol reports and articles are open-access. This article is available for download HERE.

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