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The Moderating Effects of “Dark” Personality Traits and Message Vividness on the Persuasiveness of Terrorist Narrative Propaganda

Authors
  • Braddock, Kurt1
  • Schumann, Sandy2
  • Corner, Emily3
  • Gill, Paul2
  • 1 School of Communication, American University, Washington, DC , (United States)
  • 2 Department of Security and Crime Science, University College London, London , (United Kingdom)
  • 3 Centre for Social Research and Methods, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT , (Australia)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Publisher
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Jul 08, 2022
Volume
13
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.779836
Source
Frontiers
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Psychology
  • Original Research
License
Green

Abstract

Terrorism researchers have long discussed the role of psychology in the radicalization process. This work has included research on the respective roles of individual psychological traits and responses to terrorist propaganda. Unfortunately, much of this work has looked at psychological traits and responses to propaganda individually and has not considered how these factors may interact. This study redresses this gap in the literature. In this experiment (N = 268), participants were measured in terms of their narcissism, Machiavellianism, subclinical psychopathy, and everyday sadism—collectively called the Dark Tetrad. Participants were then exposed to a vivid or nonvivid terrorist narrative (or a control message). Results indicate that Machiavellianism interacts with both narrative exposure and narrative vividness to amplify the persuasive effect of terrorist narratives. Neither narcissism, subclinical psychopathy, nor everyday sadism had such an effect. These results highlight the importance of considering the psychological traits of audiences when evaluating proclivity for radicalization via persuasion by terrorist narratives.

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