What can brain scans of radicalized jihadists tell us about how they react to what they perceive as attacks on their sacred values? In episode 58, we’re joined by Nafees Hamid from Artis International who talks with us about his article “Neuroimaging ‘will to fight’ for sacred values: an empirical case study with supporters of an Al Qaeda associate,” published on June 12, 2019 in the open-access journal Royal Society Open Science.



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Hosts / Producers

Doug Leigh & Ryan Watkins

How to Cite

Leigh, D., Watkins, R., & Hamid, N.. (2019, September 17). Parsing Science – The Neuroscience of Terrorism. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.9894509


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Hamid: They were proud to participate in the study: “Yes! I will be a representative of Lashkar-e-taiba!” … you know, an Al-Qaeda associate supporter. “You can scan my brain!”, you know.

Leigh: This is Parsing Science. The unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Doug Leigh.

Watkins: And I’m Ryan Watkins. Today, in episode 58 of Parsing Science, we’re joined by Nafees Hamid from Artis International and University College London. He’ll discuss what he learned by measuring the brain activity of supporters of a radical Islamist group as they talked about their willingness to fight and die for their values, and whether they were more or less likely to do so if they believed that their peers did or didn’t feel the same way. Here’s Nafees Hameed.

Hamid: Hello, I’m the Nafees Hamid. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Started off my career, actually, as a professional actor. I went to theater conservatory. Was acting doing various regional theater. Lucky; didn’t need any side jobs. Was kind of making a go of it, but of course nothing famous that I did that your listeners would be able to remember me from. And then I decided I wanted to go live in France for a little while, just because it was always a dream of mine to go live in Paris. So I went to Paris to go teach English for a year. Again, thinking I would apply for grad school or something that year. My plan was to try to do a PhD in either at UCLA or USC and then continue acting while doing the PhD. Now I look back at the end realized that was quite ambitious, but … I get to Paris fall in love with Paris. Don’t get into any of the PhD programs that I had applied for. Happened to find out about this very interesting master’s program they had in cognitive science called the Cog Master. It’s like very interdisciplinary in many different labs, many different universities. And so I applied and I got directly into the second year of their master’s degree, so I was able to do it in one year. And then I decided to do my PhD in Security and Crime Sciences at University College London. And I’m just about to finish that PhD.

Leigh: Nafees and his colleagues do research on the influence of “sacred values” on the decision-making pf people who hold the kind of radical beliefs that are consistent with those of terrorist organizations. We began our conversation by asking the Nafees how he got interested in this line of research.

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