People looking for thrills and meaning in life are more likely to be involved in violent political movements, a new study shows.
Diverting these individuals to activities that are peaceful but still exciting could stem conflicts and tensions, researchers from New York University, Abu Dhabi, and the University of Cordoba in Spain suggest.
In the last week alone, three acts of ideologically motivated violence shook the US and killed 13 Americans.
The political tensions in the US (as well as in many countries worldwide) are noticeably high, and while the polarization between the parties certainly plays a role, social psychologists are looking for deeper motives among American citizens.
It could just be that we are bored, suggests the new study.
People who are bored and looking for meaning are more likely to thrill – and that makes them more susceptible to politically violent movements, according to the new study
Cesar Sayoc liked to stand on stage and perform strip routines. He was also a bodybuilder, run clubs in Florida, and learned mixed martial arts.
His life was an unpredictable, mixed bag of risks, outbursts, passions, and ambitions that did not materialize until he became known as a MAGA bomber.
Sayoc's spontaneity and his many-sided jobs and hobbies could be proof that he wanted excitement, or the search for boredom or the search for meaning.
Or it can all be considered as the above, as research on political violence suggests.
"Previous research suggests that individuals become more receptive to new ideas and worldviews when important needs – such as the need for the meaning of life – are thwarted," says the study's author. Birga Schumpe, who studies psychology of political violence at New York University Abu Dhabi told Daily Mail Online.
"It has been found that a lack of meaning in life leads to boredom, which encourages people to do exciting activities."
Sayoc and the shooter of the Pittsburgh Synagogue, Robert Bowers, turned equally to social media as they searched for social media, each supporting their passionate support for Donald Trump and white nationalism.
Social media has become a space for free speech, including hate speech.
Twitter has come under fire because it did not oppose the promotion of such a speech.
Shortly after discovering that Sayoc's Twitter was violent, the platform hinted that the "Like" button could be removed, allowing users to passively promote someone else's tweets.
But the anonymity of the Internet gives it a kind of security, and security means less danger, lasting effects and thrill.
And these elements can be exactly the sensations most demanded by terrorist organizations.
Although both Sayoc and Bowers were medieval, these exciting impulses are first and most visible to young people.
"Young people may engage in dangerous behaviors to be admired by their peers and therefore feel meaningful," Dr. Schumpe.
To this end, she and her team conducted a series of experiments and surveys with nearly 2,400 participants in Spain and abroad.
The so-called MAGA bomber, Cesar Sayoc, seemed to be on the look-out for thrills, jumping from job to job, stripping, running clubs, and often talking violently on Twitter
They measured the desires of the participants after excitement, determined at a prompt how deeply they searched for meaning in their lives, and asked them about their desire to leave behind.
Those who wanted to seek meaning also wanted to find adventure and were willing and willing to use violence as a means to achieve both.
The thrill search is sometimes considered a temperament trait, but is modulated by attitudes and experiences.
A clear example of this is the soldiers. Schumpe.
"In the case of the sensation search researchers [believe that] This sensationalism increases as soldiers adapt to situational demands during combat, "she says.
"In our research, we've shown that the search for sensation increases when people search for meaning in their lives. Sensation seeking is not just a biologically determined temperament, but also a goal-oriented state that motivates people to engage in new stimulation to make themselves meaningful. "
None of these factors – sensation, meaning, or the possibility of finding through war and conflict – are new, but the visibility of terrorist groups can help bring about particularly violent tendencies.
"There certainly has never been a lack of dissatisfied youth, dissatisfaction or people with severe complaints in our societies," says Dr. Schumpe.
However, in our view, the escalation of political violence observed in recent years shows that some terrorist groups (eg ISIS) have successfully branded themselves as vehicles that can satisfy important psychological needs such as meaning, power, fame and adventure. & # 39;
The research of Dr. med. Schumpe did not investigate any violent actions on US soil as they occurred last week. But Bowers and Sayoc were concerned with online group feelings, which some called militant – but were for a long time only affected by computers or smartphones.
Robert Bowers, who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, said at the gab that he could no longer "stop by" and suggested a desire to act
"Anyone who has no sense in life could do skydiving to fill the void and find a sense of liveliness. Young people could engage in dangerous behaviors to be admired by their peers and therefore feel meaningful, "says Schumpe.
In his last social media post on the controversial platform, Gab, Bowers wrote, "I can not sit next to me and watch my people slaughtered. Screw your look I'm going into."
Bowers left Gab, left home, went to Tree of Life Synogogue and shot 11 people.
Like Dr. Schump said of young people who were looking for meaning through arousal, "these exciting activities can also be violent."
"It was speculated that the search for sensations – the need for adventure and excitement – might play a role in the process of radicalization, but there was no systematic empirical study on the subject. We wanted to close this knowledge gap and find a way to reverse this process so that people can stay away from political violence, "she added.
Dr. Schumpe and her team found that if they offered a silvery alternative to politically violent alternatives, they would like to pick up the first one.
"To keep young people out of violence, society needs to create alternative opportunities to feel meaningful (such as education, vocational training, volunteering)," she said.
Dr. Schump points out that organizations like the Peace Corps could be one of our best hopes to turn the urge for excitement and violence into adventure without danger.
"The creation of exciting alternatives is certainly the key to driving the need for excitement and thrill – a lot of young people feel – in a prosocial direction."