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The business, economics and psychology of organized violence and terrorism

By Mary Loftus | Emory Magazine | July 31, 2013

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Michael Prietula. Emory Photo/Video.


Course description: Goizueta Business School offers this course so future business leaders can understand the history of terrorism attacks and political violence, their economic harm, what motivates individuals who engage in acts of terror, and the ethical and moral questions of adapting to a world with such risks.

Faculty CV: Goizueta Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management Michael Prietula, who studies human decision making and computational modeling of social systems; Distinguished Professor of Neuroeconomics Gregory Berns, whose research focuses on using brain imaging to understand motivation.

Today’s lecture: Anthropologist Scott Atran is guest lecturing about the motives and culture of extremist groups. It is the day after the Boston Marathon bombings, and Atran theorizes that the Madrid train bombing of March 11, 2004, which killed two hundred people and wounded almost two thousand, could have been a model for yesterday’s event: There was no complex hierarchy of organized “cells”; no highly engineered coordination of associated groups; no long-endured brainwashing. The final group turned out to be “a hodgepodge of childhood friends, teenage buddies, neighborhood pals, siblings, and cousins.”

Quotes to Note: “The very first class, I said, ‘There is going to be a terrorist event during this semester. We don’t know where, but I guarantee it’s going to happen.’ ”—Professor Gregory Berns

Students say: “As a former marine, I had an understanding of terrorism from a military perspective. It was valuable to learn about the underlying neurological roots of decision making and how that influences what people do.”—Daniel Rau MBA student

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