The Terrorist’s Psychological Type: Ben’s Case

Topic: Psychology and Personality
Words: 1968 Pages: 7

Brief Summary

There are three variables that should be approached when discussing the case study at hand regarding a terrorist hazard. The first problem is the need to engage in comprehensive threat management and ensure that Ben does not represent a bigger challenge to national security than he appears to be. Thus, the idea for the psychologist would be to investigate Ben’s intentions and gain insight into his attitudes prior to making any conclusions. The second problem is the presence of psychological disturbance and inconsistency in Ben’s behaviors. It will be essential to pay more attention to behavioral clues displayed by the potential terrorist. Ultimately, the psychologist will have to try to explain Ben’s actions while utilizing one of the psychological theories that could be applied to terrorism in general. Bandura’s social learning theory is the chosen approach to Ben’s case. To resolve the problem, it is recommended to investigate the terrorist’s psychological type and carry out negotiations that will help the law enforcement team learn more about Ben’s inherent intentions.

Critical Discussion #1: Threat Management

The first concept that will have to be considered after interacting with Ben is the need to mitigate the risk of him being involved in violence or any other contextual issues. Given that the potential terrorist might be under the influence of mental disorders or stressors, it should be highlighted in his health history if Ben ever visited mental health practitioners or had any issues with law enforcement. This detailed background check will be required to ensure that the investigative psychologist is going to accept the dynamic nature of the terrorist’s personality and align his actions against the most visible symptoms (Targ, 2020). Most importantly, Ben remained calm throughout the first interaction with law enforcement officers and showed no sign of being affected by a mental disorder. This makes him less of a threat to national security, as there are going to be opportunities to negotiate and find common ground to attain compliance.

On the other hand, threat management practices will be necessary to broaden law enforcement’s horizons regarding information dissemination and historical investigations revolving around terrorism. Without such data, the investigative psychologist will not be able to manage the threat, as the potential terrorist would be exposed to a much higher risk of committing unlawful activities (Nunan et al., 2022). This knowledge plays an important role in managing terrorism threats and preventing attacks aimed at national security. Additional interactions with Ben can help the psychologist identify his primary drivers and define any co-occurring risk factors that might turn him into a bigger threat to the British. According to Clemmow et al. (2022), there can be background health stressors and substance abuse averting terrorists from working together with law enforcement agencies more often. The current case proves that a visibly healthy individual could be a source of terrorist threats despite a positive image and strict supervision.

With this information at hand, the investigative psychologist can be able to resolve the problem of threat management by means of collaboration. Ben should be considered a potential terrorist that has to be neutralized in order to reduce the number of terrorist suspects in the territory of the UK and reinforce the importance of predictive techniques. Even though the team did not identify any derogatory posts on social media published by Ben, it is rather likely that he and his organization continue contributing to conflicts by engaging in anonymous discussions on the Internet. A threat management plan will be developed to address similar cases in the future and waste no time on unnecessary questions during interrogation. If Ben gets diagnosed with mental health disorders, it will be crucial for law enforcement agents to track his behavioral patterns to store information and utilize it to cope with similar cases in the future.

Critical Discussion #2: Psychological Disturbance and Inconsistency

The second issue that can be outlined after getting acquainted with Ben’s case is that he does not show any signs of psychological disturbance but still behaves inconsistently. At first, he signs the form that allows him to remain silent, but then he almost immediately dwells on how he planned an attack on civilians. Therefore, it is a trace of dysfunction that is usually met in criminal profiling due to exhibitions of unique behaviors that hint at one’s character and potential future activities (Corner & Gill, 2020). Even though it can be problematic to carry out proper offender profiling on Ben after learning about his online activities, the presence of a definite terrorism context makes it impossible to ignore his past activities and future plans. The lack of empirical data does not protect Ben because, in this case, he provided law enforcement with enough evidence to consider him the leader of a terrorist cell aiming at British civilians.

Future actions of the investigative psychologist are going to depend on their ability to identify more signature features of psychological dysfunctionality in Ben to support the hypothesis that he truly is a dangerous terrorist. It should be remembered that there are examples in the literature where terrorists are described as completely normal people when compared to murderers and psychopaths (Vuong et al., 2021). This apparent challenge will force the psychologist to place emphasis on how the political and socio-cultural contexts might have informed and mediated Ben’s decisions. The link to terrorist activities is just one of the issues that can be uncovered after a detailed analysis of Ben’s personality. Even though he is calm and collected during his first interaction with law enforcement, it is tangible that his willingness to disclose the organization’s plan is not a calculated step. More importantly, the inexistence of scientific evidence on an average terrorist psychological profile has to be kept in mind.

The ultimate idea to be covered within the framework of this critical discussion is the inconsistency in Ben’s behaviors. He lacks confidence and does not possess ultimate decision-making authority despite calling himself the leader of an international terrorist cell. His manifestations of terrorism include communicating with Syrian and Turkish radicals willing to carry out an attack on the UK. Nevertheless, he quickly confesses his plans despite the increasingly heavy burden of leadership on his shoulders. Ben’s fundamental thinking patterns do not fall under conventional profiling efforts. The investigative psychologist will have to push Ben into dwelling more on his interpretations of terrorism and the world in order to understand on which side of the extremity scale one may find Ben. Otherwise, it is going to be rather likely that the potential terrorist attack will be postponed indefinitely without law enforcement gaining any additional insight into local terrorists.

Critical Discussion #3: Social Learning Theory

The final critical discussion investigates the potential contributors to Ben’s behaviors and how he might have gotten himself involved with various terrorist cells. Bandura’s social learning theory revolves around the idea that one’s aggression and violence can result from the person observing and imitating aggressive models of behavior, either voluntarily or involuntarily (Becker, 2021). Therefore, Ben’s actions could be rationalized by the lack of exposure to other behavioral patterns. The problem, in this case, lies within the limits of one’s moral imperatives that could be utilized to control innate aggressivity and its consequences. From politics to the current socio-economic obstacles experienced across the UK, there might be tens of factors influencing terrorist behaviors (Jah & Khoshnood, 2019). The main task for the investigative psychologist will be to avoid reinforcing wrongdoer behaviors in all offenders while finding and patching gaps in public attitudes toward terrorism. Thus, there will be no proper consensus because Ben does not see his attempts to attack British civilians as something unacceptable or dangerous.

After living his whole life in England, Ben might not even realize that his behaviors are majorly irrational because he chooses to accept terrorist violence unconditionally. “The only way” is not an efficient explanation for the law enforcement agency. Islamic fundamentalism is extremely popular among terrorists because it includes innovation and violence in each of the messages (Mills et al., 2021). Social media might become one of the few sources of news and evidence for an investigative psychologist. Relevant pictures and sensitive information could be shared online to help Ben understand the improbability of pointing out the true leader of the given terrorist group. Thus, the social learning theory might have pushed Ben toward terrorist-like behaviors because of the lack of viable alternatives. Public glorification of terrorists and other wrongdoers becomes a rather usual activity, so Ben does not even have to defend himself rigidly. Political violence imposed by the UK government does not help in resolving the issue as well because many potential terrorists remain invisible unless they choose to confess, similar to Ben.


Based on the information from the case, it can be safe to assume that Ben tries to hide his psychological type and limit communication to an acceptable minimum. The basics of investigative psychology suggest that only specific temperaments can be associated with terrorist activity (Goodman-Delahunty & Martschuk, 2020). Further investigation should involve a thorough overview of similar terrorists or groups of wrongdoers to reach a verdict on Ben’s socio-political orientation. The potential terrorist does not discuss his role in the plot, so it can be safe to say that he is in a tough position at the moment. Nevertheless, he still has the opportunity to cover a larger plot by making law enforcement agents waste time when trying to interrogate him. Without any insight into Ben’s morality and bargaining strategies, it can be hard to conclude whether he plays an important role, but it is also evident that he is not the leader of the terrorist attack at hand. Ben possesses adequate cognitive capacity, and his unwillingness to communicate makes him tangibly inflexible when it comes to adapting to the environment.

In order to predict further actions that could be taken by Ben’s terrorist organization, the investigative psychologist will have to track any irrational patterns in the terrorist’s behavior. It will help them identify what drives Ben and pushes him toward such self-destructive, calling-for-self-affirmation attitudes. According to Etaywe and Zappavigna (2022), the biggest problem when working with terrorists could be the inability to affect national security in a positive manner while investigating just one wrongdoer. Thus, it could become a valuable investment to observe Ben’s behavioral traits and then make sure that the law enforcement team engages him in the negotiation process. The latter will be required to control the terrorist’s potential anger outbursts and lead Ben toward disclosing his group’s grievances. It would make no sense to use force to make him confess because it might increase the chances of exposing the local population to negative outcomes linked to terrorist activities in the future (Jordan et al., 2019). This approach will be helpful because it highlights the magnitude of a person’s emotional energy and has the potential to bring out concealed information.

Irrespective of which strategy will be picked by the investigative psychologist, it is crucial to remember that Ben managed to maintain secrecy throughout every interaction with law enforcement. Hence, he can be described as an above-average threat because his current actions can be perceived as unpredictable. National security units have to be optimized in order to eradicate similar scenarios in the future and create barriers for terrorist organizations willing to recruit new followers (Goodwill & Meloy, 2019). A constructive dialog with Ben is necessary in order to get him beyond the “it was the only way” outlook and get him to talk about his closest inspirations and immediate plans. Within an ethical, socially-sound, and empirical environment, the psychologist will have significantly more chances to build rapport with Ben. The final recommendation is to learn everything about the terrorist’s plans and evaluate their plausibility based on the individual’s psychological type, behaviors, and personal beliefs.


Becker, M. H. (2021). When extremists become violent: Examining the association between social control, social learning, and engagement in violent extremism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 44(12), 1104-1124. Web.

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Mills, C. E., Freilich, J. D., Chermak, S. M., Holt, T. J., & LaFree, G. (2021). Social learning and social control in the off-and online pathways to hate crime and terrorist violence. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 44(9), 701-729.

Nunan, J., Stanier, I., Milne, R., Shawyer, A., Walsh, D., & May, B. (2022). The impact of rapport on intelligence yield: Police source handler telephone interactions with covert human intelligence sources. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 29(1), 1-19.

Targ, H. R. (2020). Societal structure and revolutionary terrorism: A preliminary investigation. In The Politics of Terrorism (pp. 127-151). CRC Press.

Vuong, Q. H., Nguyen, M. H., & Le, T. T. (2021). A mindsponge-based investigation into the psycho-religious mechanism behind suicide attacks. Walter de Gruyter.

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