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Suicidal Terrorism from a Social Psychological Perspective

Megan Fletcher
Ohio Northern University

Most theories in our world rest upon the assumption that humans have an innate will to live.  Suicidal terrorism, then, is a phenomenon which goes against rational thought.  Suicidal terrorism is different than other forms of terrorism because the individual uses themselves, and their life, as a weapon against others.  This paper gives possible explanations for this event through the work of social psychologists Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg known as Terror Management Theory.  Terror Management Theory theorizes that all human action is a result of death thought awareness and is the human attempt to manage this fear of the unknown.  Though an action with an end result suicide may seem counter productive to managing the fear of death, the promise of an afterlife and the belonging to something larger than oneself does help to manage the anxiety of death. The work of Emile Durkheim is compared to Terror Management Theory.  Durkheim’s theory is also effective in helping explain further why a lack of integration, or an abundance of integration could cause the occurrence of suicide bombings.

North Central Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting
Psychology and Sociology