Contemporary Psychology

Table of Content

            Suicide bombing, a major terror strategy employed in terrorism is, if not the most, one of the most gruesome acts anybody can commit. It is outright crazy and stupid. One must be beside the normal to be entertaining such a thought in mind. Ironically, fanatics who have committed and attempted suicide bombings in the past, were deemed normal until the day when the execution of their ultimate plans were made public whether foiled or completed. People who are afflicted with mental disorder may, as other people, travel for the same reasons – vacation, visiting friends or relatives, business, recreation, and sometimes for religious or spiritual focus (Miller & Zarcone, 1968). Others indeed may travel for reasons other than the normal – for reasons triggered by malformed mental state such as the men who carried out the 911 attack of the Twin Towers in New York. Along the 911 attack, suicide bombing through aircraft came to prominence resulting in the stirring of the awareness among the international public of the fact that the regular traveler might not be that “regular” anyway. It is probable that some of them are driven by excessive anger or motivated by utopic hope as taught in the communities wherein they have pledged their life allegiance (Silke, 2003).

            The majority of theories and models of human behavior fall into one of two basic categories: internal perspective and external perspective. The internal perspective considers the factors inside the person to understand behavior. People who subscribe to this view understand behavior as psychodynamically oriented. Behavior is explained in terms of the thoughts, feelings, past experiences and needs of the individual. The internal processes of thinking, feeling, perceiving and judging lead people to act in specific ways. Both the motivational and biological influences are best explained through this internal perspective and the issue at hand (i.e., terrorism and people behind this) is examined via this channel. This internal perspective implies that people are best understood from the inside and that people’s behavior is best interpreted after understanding their thoughts and feelings (Jourad, 1963).

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            The other category of theories takes an external perspective. This focuses on factors outside the person to understand behavior. External events, consequences of behavior, environmental forces to which a person is subject, are emphasized by this external perspective. The developmental influence hence, is part of this external perspective. A person’s history, value system, feelings and thoughts are not very important in interpreting actions and behavior. Kurt Lewin for instance considered both perspectives in saying that behavior is a function of both the person and the environment (Tiffin,& McCormick, 1958).

            Man is a social being and as such his personality is viewed from the society and culture where he belongs. A society represents a geographical aggregate and has boundaries, similar government or a group of persons in meaningful interaction and engaged in social relationship. Personality is the individualizing traits of man which constitute his singularity and differentiate him from any other human being. The three determinants of personality: 1] biological heritage which has direct influence on the development of personality. This includes musculature, the nervous system, and the glands; 2] E.Q. factor describes qualities like understanding one’s feelings, empathy for the feelings of others, and the “regulation of emotion in a way that enhances living (Gibbs, 1995);” 3] environmental factors. Taking everything normal, environment plays an important role in personality development. Environmental factors are cultural environment, social environment, home and family, culture, status and role and social agent (Silke, 2003).

            Many of men’s pronounced stirred-up state of mind such as fear, anger, disgust, and contempt, have posed the question, why? What has caused such a reaction? What has brought a change to his/her behavior? What is the frustration that has brought about such behavior? In the world of a suicide bomber, he/she contemplates on various input or stimuli from the world he/she evolves in. There are frustrations of every form and even without these, his/her psyche or mental state functions on the basis of anything he/she receives (actively or passively) from the milieu. Life’s problems are numerous and as long as one is alive and kicking he will always be faced with problems, be they big or small. Such problems stir-up one’s emotions or feelings which maybe pleasant or unpleasant. Physiological problems, environmental problems, personal deficiencies and psychological concerns bring on a variety of responses; some predictable, others are not. Disorganization of family life, disintegration of personality brought about by depression, great personal suffering, any of these may take any person beyond the limits of his tolerance. Man is born in a social environment surrounded by cultural norms and values. He is faced with cultural taboos and acceptable social behavior. Numerous environmental factors come to the fore which may or may not be easily overcome. One of the most difficult problems in this area is one’s cultural dos and don’ts. Environmental frustrations cannot be avoided, for there are always certain factors in a person’s growth and achievement. Psychological or internal problems are the most difficult to resolve as they are within the inner feelings of a person. One may not be able to detect his/her concerns/anxieties through his /her overt behavior. It may only be inferred from what his/her inner thoughts and feelings are but will not know what caused such a feeling. Terrorism can thus be seen through the eyes of one who understands the dynamics of personality, the influences of family, religion and community; whether the latter come in the form of political affiliations or other social adherences (Silke, 2003).


Gibbs, Nancy. 1995. “EQ Factor” Time International, October.
Jourad, Sydney, 1963. Personal Adjustment. 2nd Ed.  New York: MacMillan Company.
Miller, W. B. & Zarcone, V. (1968) Psychiatric behaviour disorders at an international airport. Archives of Environmental Health, 17, 360 -365.
Silke, A. 2003. The psychology of suicide terrorism. In Terrorists, Victims and Society (ed. A. Silke), pp. 93 -108. Chichester: Wiley.
Tiffin, Joseph and Ernest McCormick J. 1958. Industrial psychology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.

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