Sociology Index

Physiological Approach To Terrorism

The physiological approach to terrorism suggests the role of the media in promoting the spread of terrorism. Physiological approach emphasizes that due to media coverage, the methods, demands, and goals of terrorists are quickly made known to potential terrorists, who may be inspired to imitate them upon becoming stimulated by media accounts of terrorist acts. David G. Hubbard (1983) takes a physiological approach to analyzing the causes of terrorism.

David G. Hubbard discusses three substances produced in the body under stress: norepinephrine, a compound produced by the adrenal gland and sympathetic nerve endings and associated with the fight or flight, physiological response of individuals in stressful situations; acetylcholine, which is produced by the parasympathetic nerve endings and acts to dampen the accelerated norepinephrine response; and endorphins, which develop in the brain as a response to stress and narcotize the brain, and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Kent Layne Oots and Thomas C. Wiegele (1985) have also proposed a model of terrorist contagion based on physiology. Their model demonstrates that the psychological state of the potential terrorist has important implications for the stability of society. In their analysis, because potential terrorists become aroused in a violence-accepting way by media presentations of terrorism.

Terrorists must, by the nature of their actions, have an attitude which allows violence. According to Oots and Wiegele, an individual moves from being a potential terrorist to being an actual terrorist through a process that is psychological, physiological, and political.

"If the neurophysiological model of aggression is realistic, Oots and Wiegele assert, there is no basis for the argument that terrorism could be eliminated if its sociopolitical causes were eliminated.

Terrorist and victim: Psychiatric and physiological approaches from a social science perspective. Kent Layne Oots, Thomas C. Wiegele. Abstract: This paper reviews physiological and psychiatric approaches to the study of terrorism from a social science perspective. First the paper reviews psychiatric studies of terrorism.

A physiological approach to terrorism is used to develop an individual level model of terrorist contagion. The effects of terrorism on its immediate victims are considered next, followed by a discussion of the possibility of panic among the general public resulting from terrorist acts. Finally, the policy and theoretical considerations raised by the physiological and psychiatric approaches are discussed.