Motives Don't Matter? Motive Attribution and Counterterrorism Policy

Daphna Canetti, Joshua Gubler, Thomas Zeitzoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across three studies, two experiments, and two different countries (Israel and the United States), we examine how perceptions among members of the public regarding the motives of terrorists' influence support for counterterrorist policy. We find that while perceptions that terrorists are motivated by “hatred” (rather than by a “lack of opportunity”—economic or otherwise) strongly correlate with support for harsher counter-tactics, and that these perceptions can be changed by providing information from “experts” on the “true” motivations of the outgroup, these changes in perception do not appear to cause change in support for counterterrorism policy. Our findings suggest that among the public, counterterror policy is not as instrumentally driven as much current research assumes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-499
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Daphna Canetti, University of Haifa, 199 Aba Khourshy Ave. Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel, 3498838. E-mail: [email protected]

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Society of Political Psychology


  • conflict
  • experiment
  • motivations
  • political psychology
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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