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Rational choice rewards and the jihadist suicide bomber


Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract

Suicide terrorism is the most violent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. This kind of terrorism causes many fatalities and can throw an entire nation into a state of panic. We usually attribute this kind of terrorism to altruistic motivation, assuming that bombers are willing to sacrifice themselves for a higher cause. The current study uses the criminological theory of Rational Choice to analyze the motivation of jihadist suicide terrorism. By reviewing the religious, personal, and social incentives, we demonstrate that even those who kill themselves in suicide attacks, which are seemingly examples of irrational or altruistic behavior, do so while considering future, self-gratifying benefits. Since this self-destructive behavior is mostly driven not by altruistic motivation but by the anticipation of costs and benefits, we find that there is no fundamental difference between the perpetrators’ motivations and those of other criminals; both groups are committed to maximizing self-gratifying, beneficial behavior.

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