Ideological obsession: Unraveling the psychological roots of radicalization

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New research has found a significant relationship between obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, obsessive passion for ideological beliefs, and radical intentions. The study, published in the journal Aggressive Behavior, suggests that the intensity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms could be a key factor in understanding why some individuals develop extreme, often violent, ideological beliefs.

The motivation behind this research was to deepen the understanding of what drives radicalization in individuals, a topic of growing importance in today’s global landscape. With the rise in extremist activities and ideologies, ranging from Islamist terrorism to populist movements in Western countries, unraveling the psychological processes behind these developments has become crucial. This understanding is vital for maintaining peace and security, as well as for developing effective interventions to prevent and counter violent extremism.

“My co-author Jocelyn Belanger discovered and coined ‘ideological obsession,’” explained first author Jais Adam-Troian, an assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai and an external behavioral science consultant for Bellegarde. “The latest meta-analyses show it is the largest predictor of radical intentions. I pointed out to him that ideological obsession shares common features found in OCD. He agreed and we decided to test if ideological obsession and radical intentions were related to OCD symptoms.”

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