The brain patterns of 30 Pakistani men from a small, tight-knit community in Barcelona who said they would engage in violent acts in defense of jihadist causes were shown to have less activity in the part of the brain associated with deliberative reasoning, according to research published by scientists from the UK, U.S., and Spain.
Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of the young Muslim men from Spain, a recurrent target of jihadists. All respondents supported the militant group Lashkar-et-Taiba, which in 2008 was designated an entity associated with al-Qaida by the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267. Most identified as Sunni.
Any participant who presented with psychiatric diseases or personality disorders were excluded from the study, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal for Artis International, a research group that studies the role of “sacred values” in conflicts worldwide.
The results were surprising, specifically when respondents were told their peers were less willing to die and fight for a cause than they were.
“That shows that you can lower people’s willingness to fight and die, and when people’s willingness to fight and die decreases, [the part of the] brain associated with deliberative reasoning [is] activated,” Nafees Hamid, a social psychologist at University College London and one of the researcher, told BuzzFeed News.
“What we’ve found is that one main vector of influence in being able to achieve that is through people’s perceptions of what other people think.”
Researchers said their experiments indicate creating inclusive societies could make a difference in the fight against violent terrorism, as “radicalization is a social phenomenon that must be socially combated with the help of inclusive governance, friends and families, and media,” Hamid and Clara Petrus wrote in the study.
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