Author Biography

Dr. Sara Savage, a social and cognitive psychologist, is co-founder and developer of the IC Thinking approach to preventing and countering violent extremism through empirically assessed action research, and director of IC Educational (Cambridge) Ltd.

Jessica Francar, Psychosocial Support Services and Community Development Manager at SEED Foundation, is a social worker and trauma psychotherapist who managed the implementation of the IC course, a contextualized version of IC Thinking for Iraq.

Kristin Lee Perry, Policy and Advocacy Manager at SEED Foundation, is a researcher, analyst, and practitioner focused on supporting children affected by conflict. She managed SEED's comprehensive, multi-year program for children associated with armed forces and armed groups, under which the IC course was launched.

SEED Foundation is a locally registered non-governmental organization in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq whose mission is to protect, empower, and support the recovery of survivors of violence and others at risk.



Subject Area Keywords

Armed groups, Human rights, Identity, Iraq, Middle East, Psychology, Radicalization, Violent extremism


This article reports on the results of an intervention to promote the reintegration of Yezidi children and youth in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, who had been in ISIS captivity or were displaced by ISIS, by increasing their cognitive complexity through experiential learning. The article explores the challenges faced by this demographic, including trauma and exclusion. It looks at the impact of a group-based curriculum designed to increase cognitive complexity (measured by integrative complexity), and discusses how the intervention addressed socio-cognitive needs in order to support reintegration. The intervention was piloted with young people associated with ISIS and those displaced by ISIS. Participants were thirty-three Yezidi males. Ages of participants ranged from 12-26 (Mean age = 17.77; SD = 3.69). Pre and posttest results show significant gain in IC in the overall sample (Cohen’s d= 1.76 , 95% CI [-1.86, -2.35]). Both cohorts showed significant gain, with a slightly higher gain among the cohort of internally displaced persons. Participants gained important skills such as increased empathy and emotional regulation. Implications for additional uses of this approach are discussed.

Limitations: Small sample size (reflecting a small population of interest in the area), lack of control group, non-longitudinal study.


The terms deradicalization and PVE/CVE connect this work with the relevant academic literature. Regarding the study reported here, the authors affirm the right of beneficiaries to autonomy, agency, and authority in interpreting their own experience and framing their own narratives.


We are very grateful to SEED’s donors for the generous support which enabled the implementation of this project to happen. We thank Dr. Jose Liht for his statistical analysis of the data. We extend special thanks to partner organizations in the KRI who allowed us to facilitate groups at their centers during the implementation phase. We also appreciate SEED’s staff team, particularly those who facilitated the first pilot groups. Finally, we are tremendously grateful to the survivors themselves, who inspire us to keep doing this work.

Appendixes.docx (31 kB)
Appendixes (all)

Figure 1.jpg (38 kB)
Figure 1.jpg

Figure 2_page-0001.jpg (245 kB)
Figure 2 updated

Figure 3_page-0001.jpg (197 kB)
Figure 3 updated