Preventing Radicalism and Terrorism: Neuroscience Perspective

By: Hamzah Alfarisi

Radicalism and terrorism are phenomena which paid attention by countries in the world. Radicalism, based on the dictionary of language Indonesia, is ideology wishing change or social and political reform in a way with violence or drastic. Radicalism is resulted by process of radicalization. Radicalization is a process through which people become increasingly motivated to use violent means against members of an out-group or symbolic targets to achieve behavioral change and political goals. Meanwhile, terrorism is a way of violence to create fear in the effort reaching the goals. Based on this information, we suggest that terrorism is one type or action of radicalism.
The process of radicalization can be divided into three phase, (1) sensitivity, (2) group membership, and (3) action. Sensitivity is phase which people is very susceptible on radical group influence. This phase is caused by external and internal factor. Among of internal factor are loss of status, poor career prospect, or personal uncertainty, and external factor are a strong sense of humiliation, injustice, or westernization. This situation is used by radical group to recruit new members. One of the media of recruitment is internet.

Radical groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in recruitment of new members show videos that contain of propaganda. Propaganda is guessed as effective way to recruit new members. Because of this, ISIS is more growing up than previous radical group such as Al-Qaeda. ISIS has media center called Al-Hayat that produce the video propaganda. Al-Hayat is allegedly filled by experts of cinematography. These propaganda influences psychological side as creating particular scenario to stimulate emotion of viewer.

Based on neuroscience perspective (science of brain), emotion is saved as emotional memory in part of the brain called amygdala. Amygdala, hippocampus, and part of thalamus are component of limbic system surrounding brain stem in mammals. Limbic system has many functions including emotion, motivation, behavior, and memory. The outside of limbic system such as prefrontal cortex (PFC), hypothalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) also contribute in emotional processing.

Amygdala is very sensitive on coarse visual information including wide-open eyes in fearful face, and tense condition on bombing. This information rapidly activate and preserve amygdala when input information is suitable based on its current relevance and salience. Relevance and salience of information will be used by brain as classification guidelines of information inputs. This ability is needed by brain to guide sensory processing and resolve between competing choices. This selective ability is mechanism to cope these limitation and to adjust flexibly to information, because brain can’t take all of information inputs. Amygdala might fail to respond when emotional signals are too brief or too weak, so radical group must be success to stimulate psychological side of viewer in producing video propaganda. Therefore, media center of ISIS is supposed to be filled by experts of cinematography to create scenario paid attention by viewer.

Sensitivity phase is the gate before people become members of radical groups. If this phase is prevented, people can be inhibited to become members of radical groups. According to neuroscience perspective, radicalism and terrorism can early be prevented by an individual or government as preventing or filtering information inputs in the brain. One of manner to prevent it is that people don’t follow media of radical groups or terrorism organization. So that, people will avoid propaganda spread by them. In addition, government also prevent people from their propaganda as removing video or news propaganda together related company. This is very simple way to avoid radicalization and terrorism.