Suicide Attack Martyrdoms: Temperament and Mindset of Altruistic Warriors

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© Oxford University Press, 2014. Suicidal attacks are a warfare tactic rooted in lethal altruism, a highly damaging drift away from people's more generous tendencies. Martyrs who commit these acts are extreme altruists by definition: They offer their lives as a supreme investment for others' interests. Individual differences in altruism have been measured using scales and economic games that have led to a growing understanding of their genetic and neurohormonal basis. Analyzing that in relation to suicide martyrdom leads to a question: Are there pockets of individuals among all populations who are willing to make high-cost investments of trust/sacrifice in nonkin others, particularly at war? Disentangling the neurocognitive attributes of altruism and its relationship to other traits mediating martyrdom proneness is a vital task to understand the genesis of suicidal attacks. A temperamental workspace for warriors encompassing the trait dimensions of dominance- submission, Machiavellianism-gullibility, and selfishness-altruism is outlined to frame the main clusters mediating violent martyrdom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPathological Altruism
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2012


  • Altruism
  • Machiavellianism
  • Martyrdom
  • Suicide attacks
  • Temperament
  • Terrorism


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