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Neuroscienza e terrorismo: cosa rivela la scansione cerebrale di individui radicalizzati [EN]

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A cura di @s1m0n4.

Nel corso di due studi, realizzati da Artis International a Barcellona e riportati da The Conversation, è stato selezionato un campione di jihadisti sunniti al fine di valutare l’impatto delle loro convinzioni e i meccanismi decisionali sulle diverse zone cerebrali.

Quando si cerca di analizzare l’estremismo violento, l’opinione pubblica si divide fra chi pensa che i radicalizzati siano affetti da patologie mentali e chi attribuisce la causa principale a fattori sociali, quali la povertà, la discriminazione, etc.

I risultati non hanno confermato nessuna di queste due teorie e hanno delineato un quadro più complesso, nel quale è il senso di esclusione sociale ad aumentare la determinazione alla violenza fisica per difendere quei valori considerati sacri. Non si tratta, quindi, necessariamente di individui poveri, discriminati o di minoranze, perché l’esclusione sociale può scaturire dall’incapacità ad inserirsi nella società di riferimento, a far valere la propria voce.

After conducting 535 surveys of young Moroccan origin men in Barcelona, we recruited 38 participants who openly said they would engage in violent acts in defence of jihadist causes. The young men were asked to play “Cyberball”, a video game where they and three other young male Spanish players would pass a virtual ball to each other. Unbeknown to them until the debrief, the Spanish players were purely virtual.

Half of these participants were “socially excluded” as the Spanish players stopped passing to the Moroccan players and only played among themselves. The other half continued getting passed the ball. Then, both the excluded and included participants got into the brain scanner, where we measured their willingness to fight and die for their sacred values (for example, forbidding cartoons of the prophet, banning gay marriages) and their important but non-sacred values (women wearing the niqab, Islamic teaching in schools) which were ascertained beforehand in the surveys.

Unsurprisingly, participants rated higher willingness to fight and die for sacred rather than non-sacred values. Neurally, sacred values activated the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) – an area associated with rule processing and previously correlated with sacred values in American university students. But those who were excluded increased their willingness to fight and die for their non-sacred values, and the left IFG became activated even during non-sacred value processing.

In una seconda fase, scansionando il cervello di individui ancora più violenti e radicalizzati dei primi, si è scoperto che, nel momento in cui devono prendere decisioni con alta probabilità di lotta armata e morte, la zona della corteccia prefrontale e reponsabile delle valutazioni soggettive registra una maggiore attività rispetto alla zona del ragionamento deliberativo dei costi-benefici.

Ne deriva che i messaggi online di contro-propaganda risulterebbero inefficaci, perché si basano su riflessioni che vengono tipicamente stimoalte dalla zona con minore attività cerebrale.

Our research also points to potential problems in mainstream anti-terrorism communications policies. One tool that many governments use is that of alternative and counter-messaging, such as France’s Stop-Djihadisme campaign. There are a multitude of such campaigns by civil society organisations that are discretely funded by governments. These are mostly online messages that attempt to subvert the appeal of extremist groups by, in some cases, prompting self-reflection.

Our research suggests that if areas of the brain associated with deliberative reasoning are disengaged for sacred values, then messages aimed at these issues may not work as intended. In addition, sacred values are unique to the individual. This adds an additional difficulty for mass distributed online alternative and counter-messaging.

Successful radicalisation, even online, usually contains an element of person-to-person interaction. Recent investigations into Western foreign fighters who went to Syria found that 90% were recruited through either face-to-face or online social interaction. No compelling evidence shows that disembodied online messages play a determining role. Radicalisation is a deeply social process that promises a sense of belonging and a purposeful role in social change.

Immagine da Flickr – karl Ludwig Poggemann.


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