Why do organized groups commit barbaric acts such as beheading innocent prisoners?

by | Oct 13, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Beheadings have  a long history, dating back to biblical times and before. Here are some reasons that organized groups commit barbaric acts such as beheading innocent prisoners:

1. Humans are an aggressive species. Killing animals for food is not that far removed from killing other humans for different purposes. However, humans have become less violent with each other over the past centuries. It does not seem that way because we are bombarded with news of violent behaviour, but it is true according to many types of research.

2. Humans tend to perceive in-groups and out-groups. The out-groups are sometimes perceived as not human., making it easier to torture and murder them

3. Humans commonly obey high-status members of their in-group. Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies suggested that many ordinary humans will cause harm to innocent individuals if ordered to do so by someone in authority.

4. Humans as a group are gullible. We can be convinced that our ticket to heaven is killing innocent people, that our nation or religion is always right, etc.

5. Violence tends to be reciprocated.

6. Humans do what they observe others in their group doing.

7. Desperate individuals tend to do desperate things.

8. In some groups, barbaric behaviour is the norm, and it is heavily rewarded.

9. Violence can make some individuals feel powerful, when they previously felt powerless.

10. Barbaric behaviour can be used instrumentally to gain publicity and to terrorize people within and without the terror group.

What reasons would you add? How could we use these ideas to reduce barbaric violence?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology


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