A number of Western countries are currently adding exit programs targeting militant Islamists to their counterterrorism efforts. Drawing on research into voluntary exit from violent extremism, this article identifies themes and issues that seem to cause doubt, leading to exit. It then provides a perspective on how these natural sources of doubt might best be brought to bear in connection with an exit program by drawing on social psychology and research into persuasion and attitude change. It is argued that an external intervention should stay close to the potential exiter’s own doubt, make the influence attempt as subtle as possible, use narratives and self-affirmatory strategies to reduce resistance to persuasion, and consider the possibility to promote attitudinal change via behavioral change as an alternative to seek to influence beliefs directly.
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 2013, Vol 36, p. 99-115