Motives Don't Matter? Motive Attribution and Counter-Terror Policy

Abstract

Across three studies, two experiments, and two different countries (Israel and US) we examine how perceptions among members of the public regarding the motives of terrorists influence support for counter-terrorist policy. We find that while perceptions that terrorists are motivated by ‘hatred’ (rather than by a ‘lack of opportunity’–economic or otherwise) strongly correlate with support for harsher counter-tactics, and that these perceptions can be changed by providing information from ‘experts’ on the ‘true’ motivations of the outgroup, these changes in perception do not appear to cause change in support counter-terrorism policy. Our findings suggest that among the public, counter-terror policy is not as instrumentally driven as much current research assumes.

Publication
Political Psychology