Research Explores Radicalization and Violent Extremism: What We Know and What We Should Research Further | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

April 22, 2021by Natalie Davis0
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Summary of:

Gøtzsche-Astrup, O., van den Bos, K., & Hogg, M. A. (2020). Radicalization and violent extremism: Perspectives from research on group processes and intergroup relations. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 23(8), 1127-1136.

Background & Theory

This article provides an overview of recent research as it pertains to radicalization and violent extremism, and the role that the fields of social psychology and political science can play in helping us better understand these issues and also how to prevent them.

Research Questions

Gøtzsche-Astrup, van den Bos, and Hogg, in “Radicalization and violent extremism: Perspectives from research on group processes and intergroup relations” (2020), seek to address the following questions:

    1. What does research show us about radicalization and violent extremism and its relationship to intergroup relations?
    2. What are the roles of social psychology and political science in better understanding this?


The authors provided an overview of what we know about radicalization and violent extremism and provided some examples that many of us are more recently familiar with. They explain how these violent actions or ideologies might occur, and what we currently know about how we might help prevent them. Additionally, the authors discussed just how and why social psychology and political science experts may be the key to helping us do this. The authors presented recent research findings, and also reviewed how individuals and groups may end up leaning toward radical/violent ideologies.


The authors explained how much research has arisen in the last couple decades in the areas of radicalization and violent extremism due to some major events, such as 9/11. The authors discuss current research that shows how people might fall into extremism, how much of this is influenced by intergroup relations, as well as the various reasons this might happen (threats to ingroup, feeling ostracized by an outgroup, etc.). One key finding that is mentioned is just how important it is to understand how to prevent extremism, as it is not something people are born with necessarily but can easily over time become involved in. Due to the research and focus areas of political science and social psychology, these fields are especially well suited to help us better understand these critical issues.

What This Means

  • There are many reasons for how one might become involved in radical ideologies or violent extremism. Some can be individual based, but many reasons are rooted in intergroup relations.
  • Extremism can occur for many kinds of purposes or values, such as religious or political reasons, and often there is an underlying conflict of some kind. Understanding the unique circumstances that might cause an ordinary person to become involved in these kinds of extreme or violent ideologies and figuring out how to prevent it is one of the keys to addressing this issue.
  • In the larger scope of conflict resolution, understanding the unique situations that might cause (or have caused) conflict are critical to helping resolve conflict and prevent future conflict.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Having a good, well-rounded understanding of the situation at hand, from all perspectives, can be crucial in mediating the situation. Fixing the underlying issues and coaching people through the things that need changed can also prevent future conflict.

For everyone: We are all susceptible to falling into ideas or actions that we are not comfortable with or disagree with. Regular self-evaluations can be helpful in ensuring we are level headed and are comfortable with where we sit with our actions and beliefs.

Natalie Davis

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