Divergent paths to martyrdom and significance among suicide attackers

David Webber, Kristen Klein, Arie Kruglanski, Ambra Brizi, Ariel Merari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research used open source information to investigate the motivational backgrounds of 219 suicide attackers from various regions of the world. We inquired as to whether the attackers exhibited evidence for significance quest as a motive for their actions, and whether the eradication of significance loss and/or the aspiration for significance gain systematically differed according to attackers’ demographics. It was found that the specific nature of the significance quest motive varied in accordance with attackers’ gender, age, and education. Whereas Arab-Palestinians, males, younger attackers, and more educated attackers seem to have been motivated primarily by the possibility of significance gain, women, older attackers, those with little education, and those hailing from other regions seem to have been motivated primarily by the eradication of significance loss. Analyses also suggested that the stronger an attacker’s significance quest motive, the greater the effectiveness of their attack, as measured by the number of casualties. Methodological limitations of the present study were discussed, and the possible directions for further research were indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-874
Number of pages23
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2017


  • Martyrdom
  • Motivation
  • Radicalization
  • Suicide


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