Terrorism-A (Self) love story: Redirecting the significance quest can end violence

Arie W. Kruglanski, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Michele Gelfand, Rohan Gunaratna, Malkanthi Hettiarachchi, Fernando Reinares, Edward Orehek, Jo Sasota, Keren Sharvit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jean-Jacques Rousseau's concepts of self-love (amour propre) and love of self (amour de soi même) are applied to the psychology of terrorism. Self-love is concern with one's image in the eyes of respected others, members of one's group. It denotes one's feeling of personal significance, the sense that one's life has meaning in accordance with the values of one's society. Love of self, in contrast, is individualistic concern with self-preservation, comfort, safety, and the survival of self and loved ones. We suggest that self-love defines a motivational force that when awakened arouses the goal of a significance quest. When a group perceives itself in conflict with dangerous detractors, its ideology may prescribe violence and terrorism against the enemy as a means of significance gain that gratifies self-love concerns. This may involve sacrificing one's self-preservation goals, encapsulated in Rousseau's concept of love of self. The foregoing notions afford the integration of diverse quantitative and qualitative findings on individuals' road to terrorism and back. Understandingthe significance quest and the conditions of its constructive fulfillment may be crucial to reversing the current tide of global terrorism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-575
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Love of self
  • Motivation
  • Selflove
  • Significance quest
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Terrorism-A (Self) love story: Redirecting the significance quest can end violence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this