Abstract for: Root Causes of Violent Radicalization: The Terror Contagion Hypothesis

This paper broadens the search for causes of radicalization leading to predatory mass violence beyond the well-known fishermen-swarm debate. We begin by creating a system hierarchy of five levels. We synthesize expert theories of radicalization to present a complete system structure in a causal-loop diagram (CLD). From this, we identify potential root causes operating simultaneously at different levels of the hierarchy. Leveraging complexity science, we demonstrate six root causes operating at the highest level of system structure to create a dynamic we term a ‘terror contagion.’ As these root causes influence downwards into a system, they create channels favoring different violent ideologies and radicalization dynamics such as fishermen or swarm. This analysis demonstrates that swarm and fishermen are the effects of true root causes of radicalization and not the cause of radicalization itself. We conclude by proposing several experiments to test the proposed terror contagion hypothesis through traditional analysis and computer modeling, and simulation.