Author Biography

Dr Feriha Peracha is a neuro-psychologist, Director of Sabaoon and CEO of Social Welfare Academics and Training for Pakistan (SWAaT) NGO.

Dr Sara Savage is a social psychologist and Director of IC Educational (Cambridge) Ltd.

Raafia Khan is a clinical and research psychologist with SWAaT.

Asma Ayub is a clinical psychologist with SWAaT.

Andleeb Zahra is a research psychologist and statistician with SWAaT.



Subject Area Keywords

Pakistan, Peace studies, Radicalization, Taliban, Violent extremism


This article reports on the results of an intervention to promote cognitive complexity (measured by integrative complexity, IC) and perspective taking for youth detained for violent extremism at the Sabaoon Center for Deradicalization and Rehabilitation in northern Pakistan. Participants are sixty-four males (mean age 19.77, SD = 3.26) comprising three cohorts: CVE Detained, CVE Reintegrated, and PVE At-risk.

The Sabaoon IC intervention consists of eight sessions with action learning contextualized according to an assessment of the push, pull and personal factors that shape the life experience of the youth. Pre and post testing results show significant gain in IC in the overall sample (Cohen’s d= -1.80, 95% CI[-.87,-.49]), and in each cohort, indicating significantly increased ability to perceive validity in one’s own changing views and others’ differing views along with reduction in derogating or dehumanizing outgroups. Oral presentations showed expected IC scores showing differentiation, with the Reintegrated cohort showing higher order integrations and expressed confidence to be change-makers in their communities.

Two subscales from the Violent Extremist Beliefs Survey (concerning beliefs about inter-religious harmony and risk-taking behaviors) showed expected changes, but self-report perspective taking and empathy measures were insignificant.

Limitations: The entire Sabaoon sample was selected for the intervention, and due to time and operational constraints, it was not feasible to recruit a control group matched on important variables.

Implications for using IC measurement and method for detained and at risk populations are discussed.


Sara Savage’s work on this article was conducted while Senior Research Associate, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge. Her current affiliation is as Director of IC Educational (Cambridge) Ltd, which is a research-based service guided by peer-reviewed research. There is no conflict of interest between the two organisations and the outcomes of research projects do not have a direct impact on financial gain.


Sincere thanks to the Government of Netherlands for their support and for providing the funding for this seminal work, to the skilled facilitators, and to Hafsa Tansveer for her dedicated work in supporting the delivery of this project. We appreciate the helpful advice of the anonymous reviewers which has been incorporated into this article.