Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Suicidal terrorism motivation
What motivates suicide attacks?
- 1 Overview
- 2 Suicide attack history
- 3 The collective effort model
- 4 Rational choice theory
- 5 Other motivators for suicide attacks
- 6 Real world applications
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 See also
- 9 Reference list
The process of killing multiple innocent bystanders whilst sacrificing your own life goes against the basic human instinct of survival, and it therefore intrigues people as to what motivates such behaviour (Kruglanski, 2009). A suicide attack can be defined as a psychological warfare tactic used to destroy a physical target in an attempt to affect a larger audience (Atran, 2003). Suicide attacks are commonly used by terrorist groups to send a message to the general public that they are dangerous and unpredictable. Unlike other types of attacks, the intended audience for a suicide attack is not the targets themselves, but the greater population to which the victims belong to (Atran, 2003). The audience for the 9/11 attacks was the greater American public, not the office workers in the World Trade Centres.
Suicide attacks are an effective terrorism tactic because they are unpredictable, random and deadly. With a single attack, one group is able to capture the undivided attention of a nation. Today’s world is dominated by stories of terrorism where suicide attacks are becoming more and more prevalent, and therefore understanding the motivation behind such behaviour is even more relevant and important.
- Central questions
This chapter will aim to answer the following questions:
- What is the history of suicide attacks?
- How does the collective effort model and rational choice theory apply to suicide attacker motivation?
- Are there any other motivators behind suicide attacks?
- How can an understanding of these theories and motivators assist policy makers to reduce suicide attack prevalence?
Suicide attack history
Suicide attacks were used by Japanese pilots during World War II. During the end of 1944, the Japanese were in desperate times, and knew that the only way the Allies would consider peace terms would be if their expansive carrier fleet and army was reduced (Tokarev, 2014). The Japanese decide to send their pilots out to crash their planes into the carrier fleet, killing themselves and Allied soldiers, in addition to damaging the Allies' ships (Tokarev, 2014). These were referred to as ‘kamikaze’ attacks, and are the first documented suicide attacks.
The kamikaze pilots are unique, as researchers are able to analyse motivating factors through the multiple letters, wills and journals they left behind. Orbell (2011) found that the largest motivators listed in the 661 pilots’ documents analysed were having an honourable (71.9%) or beautiful (28.4%) death, contributing to the war effort (37.8%) and believing their actions were critical to the war effort (26.9%). All kamikaze pilots believed that their death would make a positive difference to Japan and their position in the war. Religious or familial reasons were listed minimally, which was unexpected. The Japanese military established the 1872 Military Code for the Imperial Navy and Army which stated that death was mandatory for any soldier who attempted to survive defeat (Orbell, 2011). Therefore, an adherence to cultural norms and rules was also a strong motivating factor for the kamikaze pilots.
The most publicised form of suicide attacks are suicide bombings. Between 1981 and 2006, suicide bombings made up 90% of all suicide attacks in the Middle East (Hassan, 2009). Suicide bombings have therefore been historically common, and this trend is set to continue. Cultural, nationalist and religious reasons are often cited as the top motivational factors for suicide bombers. Araj (2012) conducted interviews with the family and friends of 42 Palestinian suicide bombers in an attempt to understand their motivational drives. The author found that the strongest motivations cited were a desire for revenge against Israeli forces, religious inspiration and desire for national liberation (Araj, 2012).
Suicide bombings are not used by all terrorist groups, and culture plays a large part in whether a terrorist organisation will decide to use suicide bombers (Braun & Genkin, 2014). If the group comes from a collectivist culture and has cohesive in-groups that have high levels of loyalty, the group is more motivated to utilise suicide terrorism tactics. Collectivism has therefore been found to strongly correlate with suicide bombing use (Braun & Genkin, 2014). These, and other social group theories are the most effective at explaining suicide attack motivation.
The collective effort model
The collective effort model (CEM) is an extension of Vroom's expectancy theory, that takes into account the effect of social loafing in group scenarios. The collective effort model is a social theory that explains how individuals work in group situations, and thus can be applied to suicide attacker motivation.
Vroom's expectancy theory
Vroom’s expectancy theory states that expectancy, instrumentality and valence all equal motivational force (Karau & Williams, 2001). Expectancy refers to whether an individual’s behaviour will result in a particular level of performance (Pousa & Mathieu, 2010). Instrumentality is the perception that this level of performance will result in a desired outcome, and valence refers to the degree of desirability of the outcome or reward (Pousa & Mathieu, 2010). These three elements are able to determine whether an individual will have a high or low motivational force for a collective group task.
Karau and Williams (2001) agreed with Vroom's theory as a reliable measure of motivational force, but believed that it lacked the important motivational factor of social loafing. Therefore Karau and Williams (1993) developed CEM theory as a way to explain an individual's motivational drive on collective task, and what effect social loafing has on their motivational drive. Karau & Williams (2001) built on the theory by adding the components of perceived relationship between individual performance and group performance, perceived relationship between group performance and group outcomes and perceived relationship between group outcomes and individual outcomes to Vroom's aspect of instrumentality (refer to Figure 3 for details). It is these three added components that measure social loafing drive.
Therefore, according to the CEM theory, if an individual has high expectancy, high instrumentality (and high on the added social loafing components) and high valence, they will have a high motivational force for the collective task (Karau & Williams, 1993). If not, then the individual's motivational force is low. Social loafing is determined by assessing the three added components of instrumentality that CEM embodies, where if these are low then the possibility of the individual social loafing is also low.
The best way to look at CEM theory is through applying it to a university group assignment setting. This theory can be used to explore each individual group member's motivational drive for a assessment piece. If the student believes that their individual effort will lead to the desired level of performance, they will have a high expectancy rate. In a university setting, this means that the individual sees a relationship between their individual work and their desired grade. The individual will have high instrumentality if they see a connection between their desired grade and overall outcome of doing well in that unit. Similarly, the individual will have high valence if they see the overall outcome of doing well in the unit as desirable. This explains how Vroom's theory relates to motivational drive, but not the CEM social loafing factors of instrumentality.
In this group assignment, in order for the student to avoid social loafing, they must perceive a strong relationship in each instrumentality factor. This means that the individual must see a strong relationship between their individual work and the group's performance of doing. They must also see that doing well on the assessment correlates strongly with the group's outcomes of achieving a desired grade (Karau & Williams, 2001). The student must also see a strong relationship between achieving this desired grade and their individual outcome of doing well in the unit. It the student understands this, they will not social loaf and are more motivated to complete the work (Karau & Williams, 2001).
How this can be applied to suicide attackers
CEM was originally created to help companies increase their organisational work group outputs, but it can also be applied to suicide attack motivation. An individual who carries out a suicide attack can easily see how the attack will further the group’s goals and outcomes of terrorising the enemy, asserting power over a population and spreading awareness of the group (Olechowicz & Matusitz, 2013). The added CEM instrumentality components can be met in the following ways:
|CEM Instrumentality Factor||Application to Suicide Attackers|
|1.Perceived relationship between individual performance and group performance||The individual needs to see that their individual performance (the suicide attack) is related to the group’s performance (completing missions, creating terror, fighting back).|
|2.Perceived relationship between group performance and group outcomes||The individual needs to see a connection between the group’s performance (completing missions, creating terror, fighting back) and the group’s outcomes (furthering their cause, creating awareness of the group, becoming a viable threat).|
|3.Perceived relationship between group outcomes and individual outcomes||The individual needs to understand that the group outcomes (furthering their cause, creating awareness of the group, becoming a viable threat) are aligned with their individual outcomes (personal significance, infamy, religious reasons).|
If the individual sees a relationship in each of these categories, they are unlikely to social loaf. However, the individual's overall motivation for the suicide attack is also dependent on their expectancy and valence measures. Refer to the applied example below for how this can be applied to a suicide attacker.