Political psychology in understanding Al-Qaeda : why and how

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2012

Thesis Language: English

Student: Betül Özyılmaz



This thesis is concerned with political psychology as an academic field with regard to the explanatory power of political psychology accounts in understanding the al-Qaeda network. Understanding al-Qaeda as a network of cells dispersed worldwide and in cooperation with local militant Islamist groups requires analysis at individual and group level, a multidisciplinary and multimethod research and focus on context and process. In this sense, political psychology accounts appear to have explanatory power to understand the al-Qaeda network, utilizing the defining characteristics of the field. Analyzing al-Qaeda through the lenses of political psychology, it can be concluded that psychoanalytically based approaches may not be very relevant to approach al-Qaeda. In this regard, this thesis promotes the study of the al-Qaeda network by concentrating on the group level of analysis. In this context, sociological accounts, social psychological framework of moral disengagement mechanisms, developmental psychology approach of social learning theory and large group in its own right provide us with powerful frameworks to study the causes, process and effects of al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities.