Author Biography

Dr. Sara Savage is Senior Research Associate with the Psychology and Religion Research Group, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK. A social psychologist, her work focuses on the cognitive and group dynamics at play among young people vulnerable to violent radicalization. With Dr. Jose Liht, she develops and tests educational programs based on value complexity to address a range of violent extremisms. Publications include a nationwide qualitative examination of the worldview of young people (published in Making Sense of Generation Y, 2006), an examination of religious and church organizations (published in the Human Face of Church, 2007), and conflict transformation research in regard to differing religious orientations (published in Conflict in Relationships, 2010), along with numerous articles and pre- and post-tested educational programs. For more information, contact the author, Sara Savage, at: sbs21@cam.ac.uk. Additional information is available at: http://www.divinity.cam.ac.uk/faculty-research/carts/ic-thinking.



Subject Area Keywords

Counterterrorism, Fundamentalism, Political violence, Radicalization, Religious violence, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Violent extremism


What lessons can the study of fundamentalism and the psychology of religion teach the newer field of Radicalization and Involvement in Violent Extremism (RIVE)? Four lessons and an intervention are offered in this article: (1) Religion is a robust human experience and cultural product that adopts a defensive shape when its worldview is threatened. (2) This does not mean that all "fundamentalisms" or radical versions of religion are somehow linked or perform similar functions; rather, they reflect the limited human repertoire to threat, yet within different cultural and historical contexts. (3) Causal explanations on the level of the individual are insufficient to understand these movements. (4) There is a modernist trend to elevate word-based, rational knowing over more implicit, symbolic knowing in both fundamentalism and radical discourses. Fundamentalism and radicalized religion seem to be the left brain's attempt to"do" religion. And, it does this now even more separately from the right brain compared to previous eras.1 (5) An intervention addressing violent extremisms through value complexity draws the above lessons together in an emergentist model that has an empirical track record of success.