Outcome-oriented moral evaluation in terrorists

Sandra Baez, Eduar Herrera, Adolfo M. García, Facundo Manes, Liane Young, Agustín Ibáñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

As shown by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, terrorism is one of the most pernicious threats to contemporary societies 1. In addition to obliterating the freedom and physical integrity of victims, terrorist practices can destabilize governments, undermine civil harmony and threaten economic development 1. This is tragically corroborated by the recent history of Colombia, a country marked by escalations of paramilitary terrorist violence 2. Although multiple disciplines are struggling to understand these atrocities, the contributions from cognitive science have been limited. Social cognition abilities 3,4,5,6,7 have been proposed as important variables in relation to criminal and violent profiles. Against this background, this study aimed to assess the moral judgements and social-cognitive profiles of 66 ex-combatants from a paramilitary terrorist group. We found that moral judgement in terrorists is abnormally guided by outcomes rather than by the integration of intentions and outcomes. This pattern was partially related to emotion recognition and proactive aggression scores but independent from other cognitive domains. In addition, moral judgement was the measure that best discriminated between terrorists and non-criminals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0118
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Volume1
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

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