The Psychology of Extremism : A Motivational Perspective book cover
1st Edition

The Psychology of Extremism
A Motivational Perspective

ISBN 9780367467609
Published September 13, 2021 by Routledge
328 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This ground-breaking book introduces a new model of extremism that emphasizes motivational imbalance among individual needs, offering a unique multidisciplinary exploration of extreme behaviors relating to terrorism, dieting, sports, love, addictions, and money.

In popular discourse, the term ‘extremism’ has come to mean largely ‘violent extremism’, but this is just one of many different types: extreme sports, extreme diets, political and religious extremisms, extreme self-interest, extreme attitudes, extreme devotion to a cause, addiction to substances, or behavioral addiction (to videogames, shopping, pornography, sex, and work). But do these descriptions have a deeper meaning? Do they reveal a common psychological dynamic? Or are they merely a mode of things about phenomena that have little in common? Bringing together world-leading psychologists from a variety of disciplines, the book uses a brand-new model to examine different expressions of extremism, at different levels of analysis (brain, hormones, and behavior), in order not merely to describe such behaviors but also to explain their occurrence, and the conditions under which they may be likely to emerge.

Also including suggestions for ways in which extremism could be counteracted, and to what extent it appears to be harmful to individuals and society, this is essential reading for students and academics in psychology and behavioral sciences.

Table of Contents

The Psychology of Extremism

Arie W. Kruglanski, Ewa Szumowska, and Catalina Kopetz

Extremism as a Motivational Construct

Consequences of Motivational Imbalance

The Present Volume: Motivational Imbalance Across Domains and Levels of Analysis

Part 1: Motivational Imbalance at Different Levels of Analysis

Part 2: Motivational Imbalance Across Domains of Human Endeavor

Part 1: Motivational Imbalance at Different Levels of Analysis

1. Incentive Salience in Irrational Miswanting and Extreme Motivation

H. M. Baumgartner, Erin E. Naffziger, David Nguyen, and Kent C. Berridge


Reward Utilities and 'Wanting'

Attribution of Incentive Salience

'Irrational Miswanting' and 'Dangerous Desire'

Conclusion and Implications in Extreme Aggression

2. Attitudinal Extremism

Joseph J. Siev, Richard E. Petty, and Pablo Briñol

Developing a Model of Attitudinal Extremism

Candidates for Inclusion in a Model of Attitudinal Extremism

Properties of Attitudes That Increase Attributions of Extremism

Processes that Produce Polarized, Confident, and Unusual Attitudes

Properties of Attitudes that Predict Extreme Behavior

Threat as a Moderator of Compensation Effects


3. On Extreme Behavior and Outcomes: The Role of Harmonious and Obsessive Passion

Robert J. Vallerand and Virginie Paquette

A Dualistic Model of Passion

Passion and Extreme Behavior


4. The Extreme Group

John M. Levine and Arie W. Kruglanski

The Present Chapter

Quest for Significance




5. Masters of Both: Balancing the Extremes of Innovation Through Tight-Loose Ambidexterity

Piotr Prokopowicz, Virginia K. Choi, and Michele J. Gelfand

Exploration and Exploitation: Understanding the Extremes of Innovation

Cultural Tightness-Looseness

Exploring Looseness, Exploiting Tightness

The Goldilocks Principle of Innovation



6. The Evolution of Extremis

William von Hippel and Nadia Fox

How Might Extremism Have Evolved?

What Function Might Extremism Serve?

Is Extremism Unique to Humans?

How Does Morality Attenuate and Exacerbate Extremism?

Implications and Conclusions

Part 2: Motivational Imbalance Across Domains of Human Endeavor

7. The Psychology of Extreme Sports

Eric Brymer and Pierre Bouchat


Traditional Perspectives on the Psychology of Extreme Sports

Beyond the Risk-Taking Narrative

Positive Psychology Perspectives 

8. The Psychology of Gree

Katalin Takacs Haynes

Introduction to Greed Narratives

What Is Greed and Why Is It Extreme?

History of Greed

Greed in the Social Sciences

Multilevel Model of Greed as Extremism

Mitigating the Problem

9. Moral, Extreme, and Positive: What Are the Key Issues for the Study of the Morally Exceptional

William Fleeson, Christian Miller, R. Michael Furr, Angela Knobel, and Eranda Jayawickreme

The Promise of Studying the Morally Exceptional

Do Morally Exceptional People Exist?

Theoretical, Philosophical, and Theological Accounts of the Morally Exceptional

Empirical Findings: Why Are Some People Extremely Moral?

What Is Not Known

Three Difficulties for the Study of the Morally Exceptional and Strategies for Addressing Them

Difficulty 1: What Counts as 'Moral' and What Counts as 'Morally Good'?

Difficulty 2: What Counts as Exceptional?

Difficulty 3: What Will Be Added to the Study of Morality by Studying the Morally Exceptional in Particular?



10. The Social Psychology of Violent Extremism

Erica Molinario, Katarzyna Jasko, David Webber, and Arie W. Kruglanski


Perceived Efficacy of Violence

Feeling Noticed and Agentic

Ingroup Identification

Culturally Approved Violence

Violence as a Clear Response

Relative Deprivation and Inequality

The 3N Framework: Need, Narrative, and Networks


11. Motivational Imbalance in Jihadi Online Recruitment

Gabriel Weimann


Online Recruitment

The Notion of Motivational Imbalance


Using Motivational Imbalance in Jihadi campaigns


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Arie W. Kruglanski is Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland, USA. He has received the National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award, the Donald Campbell Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Psychology, the University of Maryland Regents Award for Scholarship and Creativity, and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Kruglanski has published over 400 articles, chapters, and books on motivated social cognition; served on NAS panels on the social and behavioral aspects of terrorism; and co-founded the National Center of Excellence for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism. He was the PI on a MINERVA grant from the Office of Naval Research on the determinants of radicalization and is presently the PI on a MINERVA grant on Syrian refugees’ potential for radicalization.

Catalina Kopetz is Associate Professor of Psychology at Wayne State University, USA. Her research focuses on the mechanisms that underlie multiple goal pursuit and management of goal conflict and their implications for risk-taking. She has published in prestigious journals spanning social and clinical psychology, prevention sciences, psychopharmacology, and behavioral and brain sciences, as well as journals appealing to a broader audience, such as Perspectives in Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Psychological Review. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (including NIDA, NCI, and NIAAA).

Ewa Szumowska, is a researcher at the Social Psychology Unit in the Institute of Psychology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and a member of the Center for Social Cognitive Studies Krakow, Association for Psychological Science, and the European Association of Social Psychology. She is an author and co-author of scientific publications in journals, such as Psychological Review, Psychological Inquiry, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Cognition, and Personality and Individual Differences. She studies motivation, information processing, multiple goal pursuit, and extremism.