Policy Brief

Integrative Complexity Interventions to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism

Author : Christina Nemr and Sara Savage
Date : February 2019

Structural factors that can fuel support for violent extremism, like corrupt governance and inequality, are often intertwined with individual-level vulnerability factors, such as a search for identity or a need for quick answers to issues of injustice. Under these circumstances, individuals can be drawn to black-and-white answers that seem to offer simplicity, clarity, and certainty. Unfortunately, a hallmark of violent extremist ideologies is this binary thinking, stripped of complexity and with an identifiable in-group/out-group dynamic that offers a sense of community and belonging to help people make sense of the world. As policymakers and practitioners work to address the larger structural factors fueling violent extremism, psychological interventions may help address the binary construct of thinking that can make violent extremist ideologies sound appealing at the individual level. This policy brief explore the concept of integrative complexity – an empirical, peer-reviewed, and cross-culturally validated measure of the complexity of thinking – and the ways it can be applied in contexts of violent extremism and other instances of intergroup conflict.

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