A Science of Evil: An Exploration into Terror Management Theory, and a Psychoanalytic Theory of Extremism

  • Sayeed Devraj-Kizuk University of Alberta


Terror Management theory is a refinement on Psychoanalytic theory that places the knowledge and resulting fear of mortality as the primary motivating factor in human behaviour. Based largely on the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, the theory seeks to examine human nature from an existential standpoint, and use psychoanalytic observation to create a comprehensive theory of the subconcious factors that comprise human behaviour. This paper seeks to provide an introduction and general explanation of the essential premise of Terror Management Theory, and explain in detail one of the most integral aspects of the theory, the projection of death-anxiety from an individual onto a person, object, or abstraction, known in TMT as transference. The ideas developed in the first part of the paper are then used to develop an existentialist psychoanalytic rationale behind the extremist behaviour of the radical Islamic terrorist organisation Al Qa'ida. The paper concludes by conducting a brief review of the scientific research studies that have in the past few decades succeeded in providing solid experimental data that supports the predictions made by Terror Managment Theory.

Author Biography

Sayeed Devraj-Kizuk, University of Alberta
department of psychology, department of physics, undergraduate