About this project

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Dr Victoria Lovett (Psychology), Dr Stephen Johnston (Psychology) and Dr Chris Millington (History) have been awarded a Welsh Crucible Grant to research 'Perceptions of Terrorism'.

Perceptions of Terrorism (Chris Millington)Historians and scholars of terrorism studies have long debated the definition of the terms ‘terrorism’, ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’.  This debate in part stems from the changing practice and form of terrorism since the 1880s.  Political convictions further complicate definitions of the phenomenon, something encapsulated in the adage that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’.  The importance of perceptions and understandings of terrorism is greater than a matter of academic debate.  The UK government’s ‘Prevent’ counter-terrorism strategy depends precisely on ordinary citizens’ ability to identify and report nascent terrorist threats, in the form of ‘suspicious’ or ‘extremist’ behaviour.  Yet what acts are perceived to constitute ‘terrorism’?  How does one recognise ‘suspicious’ behaviour and identify a potential terrorist?  What images do people associate with terrorism?  Do perceptions of what constitutes terrorism differ between age groups, specifically between those people who lived for a long time under the threat of Irish terrorism, and those who have grown up during the War on Terror?

This project will study two groups of participants, examining their responses to images of terrorism, and seeking to understand what they recognise to be a terrorist act, as well as who they recognise to be a terrorist.  The project represents an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration between two disciplines, history and psychology, both of which are concerned with the analysis and interpretation of human behaviour.  We will use psychological techniques to measure brainwave activity and eye movements to investigate perceptions of terrorism. These techniques are ideal for investigating unconscious thoughts and feelings, and can identify ‘true beliefs’ towards a stimulus or event, especially those of a sensitive nature such as terrorism.