Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Piercarlo Valdesolo

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© 2016 Helen C. Seligman


To many individuals, particularly to Muslims, ISIL’s social network as well as its undying, though misleading, devotion to Islam is attractive. However, with the general human tendency to avoid killing and committing acts generally deemed as heinous, this brings into question the mechanisms that are behind the choice to join ISIL, and how these recruits are able to view membership to such a group as appealing. Janoff-Bulman, Sheikh, and Hepp (2009) identified and distinguished between two constructs of morality: the approach, activation-based prescriptive morality and inhibitory, condemnatory proscriptive morality. This study evaluates the role of these two moral regulators and how they motivate people to join an organization known for its medieval, murderous tactics, hypothesizing that there is support for both prescriptive and proscriptive morality, with prescriptive motivation being the dominant morality when faced with joining ISIL. To prove this, articles with empirical evidence for both religious and social identification as variables that cause people to behave more prescriptively or prescriptively are assessed. Though most of the studies examined provide behavioral support for prescriptive morality as the stronger motive when joining ISIL, there are limitations to what we can infer from this literature review alone. Theoretical implications in both psychology and counterterrorism strategy are discussed, as well as possible ways to further study this theory empirically.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.