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The mind of suicide terrorists

  • Donatella Marazziti (a1) (a2), Antonello Veltri (a2) (a3) and Armando Piccinni (a1) (a2)


After reviewing the available literature about the main hypotheses on suicide terrorism and the psychological characteristics of terrorists that have been proposed throughout the years, the present authors have put forward some personal considerations on what the distinctive traits of today’s suicide bombers might be. In spite of the heterogeneity and paucity of “real” data, it is evident that there is no peculiar familial, educational, or socioeconomic factors that may account for religious radicalization leading to suicide terrorism. On the contrary, some common psychological features can be highlighted: such as isolation, feelings of emptiness, cold rationality, a lack of empathy, and a lust for martyrdom and death. To die to kill: this is the core feature, a sort of organizer that can twist higher cognitive and emotional processes, resulting in the supreme and highly rewarding suicidal and killing behaviors.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Donatella Marazziti, Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e Sperimentale, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pisa, Via Roma, 67, 56100 Pisa, Italy. (Email:


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The mind of suicide terrorists

  • Donatella Marazziti (a1) (a2), Antonello Veltri (a2) (a3) and Armando Piccinni (a1) (a2)


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