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Recruitment and selection in violent extremist organizations: Exploring what industrial and organizational psychology might contribute


Authors: Hunter, Sam, Shortland, Neil, Crayne, Matthew & Ligon, Gina

Date of Publication: 2017

Publication: American Psychologist, Vol. 72, No. 3, 242–254.


Purpose of the study

Key Questions 

The articles applies Industrial and organisational (I/O) Psychology to understand how modern VEOs successfully recruit individuals for their organizations and how they decide who is permitted to join their ranks.

Quality assurance

Peer-reviewed journal so quality can be inferred as high.

Design of the study




The article explores: 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Applying an I/O Psychology Lens.

How I/O can be applied to understand:

  • A Brief History of Violence Prediction in I/O Psychology, Recruitment in Organizations, Traditional Organizational Efforts at Recruiting , The Role of Competition in Recruiting, Linking Traditional Recruiting to
  • VEO Recruiting, Recruit and Employee Typologies in Traditional,
  • Nonviolent Organizations, VEO Recruits, Specialized VEO Recruits, Recruitment Tools: The Growth of Web-Based
  • Approaches Across All Organizations, Web-Based Approaches in VEOs, Selection in Organizations, Selection in VEOs, and Measurement (Biodata as an Illustration). 

Key Findings 

Authors suggest that by considering literature outside of terrorism, key trends have been more readily observed and predicted.

Key Recommendations

By extending the research and literature base outside of terrorist organizations to include nonviolent and non-extremist organizations, emerging predictive models may be more richly developed to capture trends not anticipated through the study of VEOs, alone. In an applied field such as terrorism scholarship, it is this ability to anticipate, and as a result disrupt, the next iteration of extremist organizations that drives research effort. We believe the lens from I/O Psychology is a critical tool to add in such efforts.

Reviewer Notes

Keywords: recruitment, selection, violent extremist organizations, industrial psychology, human resource management.

This is an interesting approach and others have looked at this to explain ‘Malevolent creativity and innovation’ (MCI) – but findings are theoretical and need empirical testing.

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