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The Art and Science of Inkblots

Due late 2009.
John Langdon & Eric Zillmer
Ashland, OH: Hogrefe, 2009



European Biennial of Contemporary Art

July-November, 2008
Trento, Italy


Nazis, Baader Meinhof, Bosnia, Suicide Bombers, Al Qaeda, Guantanamo Bay

A lecture with Dr. Eric A. Zillmer
Pacifico Professor of Psychology at Drexel University

Contact zillmer@drexel.edu for availability and rates.
The surprise terrorist attacks against our country have changed the collective psychology of our nation and our perception of the threat of terrorism. This threat has led to many questions for psychological science posed by the military and law enforcement. In fact, a primary strategy on the global war on terrorism must include an understanding of the psychological pre-requisites for terrorist acts.

Given that terrorism on a grand scale has become increasingly possible, due to availability of materials and modern technology, it is important for psychologists to understand the terrorist's frame of mind. Military personnel, behavioral scientists, and psychologists may find themselves progressively more involved as consultants to the military, security firms, federal and state governments, intelligence agencies, and the police in their fight against the potential threat of terrorism. Thus, it has become increasingly more relevant to the behavioral and social sciences to study the terrorists decision making process, the social context under which terror acts occur, and the specific personalities that may be involved in terrorist atrocities.

Working from psychological data, biographical information, and historical accounts, this lecture proposes several assumptions as to how and under what circumstances humans are most likely to be recruited for and engage in terrorism. The findings presented in this lecture are based on several different theaters of terrorism and genocide, and primarily suggest that the threshold for terrorist participation is much lower than is commonly expected. Terrorists commit acts of terror for what they believe are entirely justifiable and logical reasons.

  1. State the definition of Terrorism.
  2. Recognize the value of Sympathizers to terrorists.
  3. Recognize the psychological pre-requisites for terrorists actions for occur.
  4. Identify the social context under which terrorism is most likely to manifest itself.
  5. Explain how the U.S. government deals with terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

Auschwitz, which was established by the Nazis in 1940, has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. Psychological analysis proved to be useful in separating the psychological characteristics of Nazi followers from those who were considered the Nazi leadership. The Nazi rank-and-file, including guards, were found to be simple thinkers who were easily influenced by authority. Pictured here is the Auschwitz prison perimeter fence in which German shepherd guard dogs "patrolled." Not one prisoner ever escaped.

Near Brka, Bosnia 2001 - "It is complete chaos," a U.S. major sergeant offered. "The only thing left for them to do is to kill each other, Christians, Muslims, and Islam, they all hate each other. It has been gone on for generations and generations."

Photo credits: Eric A. Zillmer, by permission.