Social Networking and the Rise of Online Radicalism
Aix-Marseille University
May 25, 2015
KARP 105
Reception to follow. Co-sponsored with Psychology, Political Science, Modern Languages, Africana Studies.


According to the extensive field work of the cognitive anthropologist Scott Atran, individuals now mostly radicalize horizontally rather than vertically; which implies that radicalization is easily promoted through peers belonging to small groups (real and virtual) with low hierarchy rather than high-order institutional structures (Religious and Sacred Imperatives in Human Conflict, 2010). By taking into consideration the increasingly growing penetration rate of social media in our lives, I'll try to provide an explanation of the psychological factors that facilitate the emergence and the online thriving of these radical social networks by combining two levels of analysis. The first level is rooted in the individual standpoint and stems from the recently developed framework of "uncertainty-identity theory" (Hogg & Smith, 2007). Especially, how people who feel uncertain identify more strongly with groups that promote low status such as seen in many radical groups. The second level is rooted in the social network standpoint and stems from the emerging framework of Virtual Collective Consciousness (VCC) (Marzouki et al., 2012). Indeed, such self-uncertainty is more likely expected to trigger and boost a collective but virtual identification process because of the anonymity, the virality and the speed with which online communication spreads. Hence, persons with uncertain selves rely more easily on the support of online networks to mentalize their ideals, from sympathizing to radicalizing, through active online participation.

Bio: Yousri Marzouki received his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Provence in France. His work on the role of spatial attention in the identification of written words and letters allowed him to obtain the European grant for postdoctoral studies from the Fondation Fyssen to pursue his research at Tufts University in Boston. He returned in 2009 to Aix-Marseille Université as an Associate Professor of cognitive psychology and statistical modeling applied to behavioral sciences. He is also researcher in the CNRS-affiliated unit Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive and a member of the research federation 3C (Behaviour – Cognition – Brain) of the French National Committee for Scientific Research. Yousri is currently conducting research on the relationship between attention, emotion, and consciousness.

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