Psychological ‘signature’ for the extremist mind uncovered by Cambridge researchers

Researchers have mapped an underlying “psychological signature” for people who are predisposed to holding extreme social, political or religious attitudes, and support violence in the name of ideology. A new study suggests that a particular mix of personality traits and unconscious cognition – the ways our brains take in basic information – is a strong predictor for extremist views across a range of beliefs, including nationalism and religious fervour. These mental characteristics include poorer working memory and slower “perceptual strategies” – the unconscious processing of changing stimuli, such as shape and colour – as well as tendencies towards impulsivity and sensation seeking. This combination of cognitive and emotional attributes predicts the endorsement of violence in support of a person’s ideological “group”, according to findings published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The study also maps the psychological signatures that underpin fierce…