Kurt Braddock is an instructor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences and the Homeland Security Studies program at Penn State University. He studies the strategic communicative techniques that influence social behavior, particularly in illicit political groups. Although he is interested in how communication affects all kinds of behavior, his research specifically focuses on how communication used by terrorist groups contribute to radicalization, recruitment, and political violence. Dr. Braddock's work also informs practical approaches to counter-radicalization and counter-terrorism. He has authored articles in communication and security journals, and he has performed research for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. National Institute of Justice, and the U.S. Office of Naval Research. He also consults multiple government entities, including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Congressional committees on homeland security.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology
13 November - 16 November 2019
Meeting of the
National Communication Association (NCA)
14 November - 17 November 2019
Meeting of the
National Communication Association (NCA)
14 November - 17 November 2019
Meeting of the
Eastern Communication Association (ECA)
1 April - 5 April 2020

MY LATEST RESEARCH

When terrorism first emerged as an area of serious scientific investigation, researchers focused on biological traits that might explain why someone becomes a terrorist. This line of questioning was quickly abandoned when it became clear that biological markers and intrinsic personality traits alone do not predict engagement in terrorism. However, there are decades of studies in the field of communication to show that individuals with certain personality traits react differently to different kinds of messages. In addition, there is some research to show that how individuals react to terrorist propaganda might explain why they are drawn to political violence. To parse these issues, I am leading an experimental study that tests whether certain personality traits predict whether someone is susceptible to persuasion by terrorist messaging (thereby putting them at greater risk for terrorist offending). Working with Dr. Emily Corner and Dr. Paul Gill of University College London's Department of Security and Crime Science, we are first collecting data from a college-aged population. Following this initial study, we plan to collect data from real-world populations that are targeted by terrorist propaganda. Results of this study will provide policymakers and security personnel with better information on when terrorist propaganda resonates with target audiences, and why.

(Picture Credit: Matt Dorfman, New York Times)

Update: See a presentation of this research here.

 

Polio has been essentially wiped from the face of the earth. Whooping cough has become a rare occurrence. HPV vaccination has reduced the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States. Clearly, vaccination programs have played a significant role in improving the physical health of those at risk for dangerous illnesses.

For decades, communication researchers have been performing the psychological equivalent of physical vaccination. These researchers have been "inoculating" individuals to increase their resistance to persuasion. This begs the question: What if we could use the principles of physical vaccination to protect against the adoption of political beliefs that support terrorist violence? I am conducting several studies that examine this exact question. Specifically, I am performing controlled experiments to test whether exposing individuals to messages that warn them of impending  threats to their beliefs increase their resistance to persuasion by terrorist propaganda. This project will give analysts and policymakers the information they need to develop counter-messages that challenge the messages of violent political organizations.

© 2018 by Kurt Braddock

All Rights Reserved

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