Going to Extremes: New Book Shows How Groups, Nations Radicalize Each Other
AUGUST 2, 2018
Psychology professor Fathali Moghaddam focuses on how groups and leaders radicalize each other in his new book, Mutual Radicalization: How Groups and Nations Drive Each Other to Extremes.
Every year millions of humans are displaced by war, repressive governments, and catastrophes of various kinds: I am just one of these countless displaced people. I was born in Iran, a country whose people have suffered political turmoil, dictatorship, war, and severe injustices. I have lived most of my life in different countries outside Iran, but was there during crucial periods of recent history, such as the hostage taking crisis and the early years of the Iran-Iraq war. My personal experiences with war, repression, and injustices have shaped my concerns as an academic researcher: How can we organize inter-group relations so that we can avoid violent conflicts and live in peace? How can we achieve more open societies and avoid dictatorships? Can scientific research provide a basis for universal justice? These are very broad questions, and my approach to research tends to be ‘big picture’.
For almost all of our history, we humans have lived in dictatorships and experienced violent intergroup conflicts. Athens 2,500 years ago and some parts of the contemporary world achieved more openness, but there is no guarantee that democracy will survive in the longer term. How can we as researchers help to ensure that democracy wins out over dictatorship, that the world in the future will be more open and free? I am convinced that genuinely more open societies are also more peaceful ones.
In order to try to do my part in tackling these enormous challenges, I continue to use ‘mixed’ research methods. Experimental laboratory, survey research, theoretical analysis, qualitative methods – I have used all of these in the past and expect to continue to do so in the future. The traditional fight between ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ researchers is utterly misguided; obviously both quantitative and qualitative methods can be valid and useful – but only on the condition that the research results are interpreted appropriately. Too often, behavior that is normatively regulated is mistakenly interpreted as being causally determined. This mistaken interpretation characterizes traditional research on human behavior.
This website presents examples of my research, organized in six main interrelated themes. I hope it proves to be useful to you.