The gap between participation and violence: Why we need to disaggregate terrorist ‘profiles’

Arie Perliger, Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Ami Pedahzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For decades, practitioners and academics sought to identify a common terrorist “profile.” However, the consensus in both the policy realm and academia suggests that, so far, these efforts produced only modest insights. This research note identifies and addresses a major impediment to previous studies of terrorist profiles: conceptualization. We argue that ambiguities in the definition of the term terrorist lead to an inconsistent and aggregated operationalization in the existing literature. Previous studies attempt to identify the factors correlated with a willingness to commit violence rather than the factors that correlate with the willingness to join an organization that commits violence. We test our claim by disaggregating the roles and responsibilities of members of various Islamist terrorist networks. We provide initial evidence that disaggregation presents a promising first step toward identifying specific profiles for different types of terrorists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-229
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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