Popular Science

Scientists are trying to get inside the mind of a terrorist

What makes mass murder possible?
a hand

Terrorists have a different sense of morality than most people—even when compared to other murderers.

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In the wake of the recent Manchester terrorist attacks, in which 22 people—mostly parents, teenagers, and children as young as eight years old—were murdered by a suicide bomber, the question that lingered on so many people’s minds is, “how?” How could he, the bomber, do it? It’s a question that many people have found themselves asking too often, not just after highly publicized attacks in the U.S., but also in countries like Kenya and Nigeria where terror attacks by militant groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabaab attract less global attention but are no less deadly, or heart-wrenchingly awful.

And yet, despite behaviors that many would label immoral, terrorists often couch their activities in moral terms—invoking concepts such as “social cleansing” and “moral purification,” attacking people and symbols that they believe are representative of moral failings

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