The Language of New Terrorism: Differences in Psychological Dimensions of Communication in Dabiq and Inspire

Matteo Vergani (Lead / Corresponding author), Ana-Maria Bliuc

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9 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate differences in the psychological aspects underpinning Western mobilisation of two terrorist groups by analysing their English-language propaganda. Based on a computerised analysis of the language used in two English-language online magazines circulated by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda (i.e., Dabiq and Inspire), we found significant differences in their language—the ISIS’ language being higher in authoritarianism and its level of religiousness. In a follow-up experimental study, we found that being high in religiousness and authoritarianism predicts more positive attitudes towards the language used by ISIS, but not towards the language used by al-Qaeda. The results suggest that ISIS’ propaganda may be more effective in mobilising individuals who are more authoritarian and more focused on religion than that of al-Qaeda. These findings are consistent with the behaviour observed in recent homegrown terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-540
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018



  • computerised linguistic analysis
  • LIWC
  • violent propaganda
  • terrorism
  • al-Qaeda
  • ISIS
  • ISIL
  • authoritarianism
  • homegrown
  • terrorist
  • recruitment
  • propaganda
  • Inspire
  • Dabiq

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