- “Describing Perceptions of Media Influence among Radicalized Individuals: The Case of Jihadists and Non-Violent Islamists” by Philip Baugut & Katharina Neumann, Political Communication
- “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence”, by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, Nature Scientific Reports
- “Teaching about terrorism, extremism and radicalisation: some implications for controversial issues pedagogy” by Lee Jerome &Alex Elwick, Oxford Review of Education
This study is the first to examine how Islamists in different phases of radicalization perceive media influence. Based on interviews with 34 Islamist prisoners and 9 former Islamists, we found that radicalized individuals perceived themselves as being immune to influence by the news media, which they generally perceived as being hostile. In contrast, they believed that the media had a relatively strong effect on the general public, on political and media elites, and on judges and prison officials. Strong third-person effects can thus be interpreted as a symptom within a larger syndrome of radicalization. According to participants, these perceptions of media influence were intertwined with their exposure to propaganda that blamed the media for the societal rejection of their ingroup. Future research should therefore investigate the use of strategic communications attacking the mainstream media as both a cause and consequence of individuals’ media influence perceptions.
People often discount evidence that contradicts their firmly held beliefs. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms that govern this behavior. We used neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence, presenting 40 liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held political and non-political views. Challenges to political beliefs produced increased activity in the default mode network—a set of interconnected structures associated with self-representation and disengagement from the external world. Trials with greater belief resistance showed increased response in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and decreased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. We also found that participants who changed their minds more showed less BOLD signal in the insula and the amygdala when evaluating counterevidence. These results highlight the role of emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning, and related phenomena.
Government advice in relation to ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE) in English schools requires teachers to identify students ‘at risk’ of radicalisation whilst also encouraging them to facilitate open classroom discussions of controversial issues. Data collected in seven schools illustrate how teachers are responding to this advice and illuminate three tensions within ‘controversial issues’ pedagogy. First, we discuss the tension between depth and coverage in case studies, which risks treating history as parable. Second, we identify a problem with finding a genuinely open ethical dilemma to discuss, which entails the risk of adopting a hypocritical stance in the classroom. Third, we identify a tendency to perceive school as the antidote to undesirable social attitudes. The teachers’ responses highlight the usefulness of framing certain issues as ‘controversial’ but also illustrate how difficult this can be in practice, especially in the context of CVE, which is perceived by many as a controversial policy.