Author Biography

Major Carter Matherly, Ph.D., U.S. Air Force, is currently serving on active duty with the 461 Air Control Wing as an Instructor Senior Director aboard the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft. Maj Matherly has served on numerous deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Inherent Resolve. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology and dual Masters Degrees in Intelligence Analysis and Psychology. Maj Matherly served as Chief of Mission Development for the E-8C where he integrated training and tactics across the Joint services. He has also served as an Air Liaison Officer (ALO) and Joint Air Component Coordination Element (JACCE) Chief of Operations to the commander of I Corps, as well as ALO to the commander of 7th Infantry Division.



Subject Area Keywords

Intelligence analysis, Psychology, Security management, Sociocultural dynamics in security, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Violent extremism


The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center marked the day that modern western progressive ideology and ideologically radicalized terrorism entered the public sphere as a household concept. There are many works and research on the susceptibility of an individual’s risk to join terrorist groups. Yet many of these approaches treat radicalization as a unique attitude towards out-group membership. This article offers a theoretical discussion applying core social motives as means to achieve basic psychological needs in the face of social conflict. This research presents a discussion surrounding the internal radicalization of individuals towards extremist groups. The research used social identity theory reinforced by minimal group paradigm as the basis of psychological theory outlining group conflict. This backbone analysis led to a refined selection of social identity complexity underpinned by cognitive complexity. Integrated threat theory offers a surmising role to both theories by identifying realistic and intergroup anxiety as key contributors to sustained conflict. The analysis ultimately noted the need to achieve individual life satisfaction as a core motivator for belonging to violent extremist groups. This observation is critically useful to practitioners working to curb the spread of terrorist groups and radicalization of individuals.