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Online self-radicalisation: a case study of cognitive vulnerabilities for radicalization to extremism and single actor terrorism

Ryan Little (Department of Research and Innovation, St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northampton, UK)
Peter Ford (Department of Autism Spectrum Disorder, St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northampton, UK)
Alessandra Girardi (Department of Research and Innovation, St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northampton, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 31 August 2021

Issue publication date: 15 November 2021

208

Abstract

Purpose

Understanding the psychological risk factors in radicalisation and terrorism is typically limited by both a lack of access to individuals who carry out the acts and those who are willing to engage in research on the matter. The purpose of this study is to describe the process of self-radicalisation of an otherwise law-abiding individual who engaged in single-actor terrorism activities.

Design/methodology/approach

A single case study, based on clinical interviews and psychometric testing, of an individual with autism who engaged in multiple acts of terrorism through online activity. The case is presented within existing frameworks of radicalisation, and describes how it developed along the steps described in the path to intended violence.

Findings

A number of variables are identified as contributing towards the individual’s vulnerability to radicalisation, such as deficits in higher order cognition, psychopathology, autism spectrum disorder traits, personal interests, social isolation and life stressors.

Originality/value

Unique to this study is how the process of radicalisation and the possibility to carry out the individual’s attacks was made possible only through the use of internet technology.

Keywords

Citation

Little, R., Ford, P. and Girardi, A. (2021), "Online self-radicalisation: a case study of cognitive vulnerabilities for radicalization to extremism and single actor terrorism", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 12 No. 3/4, pp. 112-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/JIDOB-03-2021-0006

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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