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Editorial Reviews. Review. 'Terror creates fear and only succeeds where there are witnesses to Witnesses to Terror: Understanding the Meanings and Consequences of Terrorism - Kindle edition by L. Howie. Undoubtedly, Witnesses to Terror, is an all-encompassing view of terrorism, which I must confess is one of the.
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According to appraisal theories, anger increases the goal of taking action against those responsible for the harm e. Consistent with that idea, there is vast research evidence linking anger to increased support for government policies. Angry individuals, especially those angry at terrorists, have been found to be more supportive of military action as a consequence of terrorism Huddy et al. Similarly, Sadler and colleagues observed that anger resulted in support for more aggressive policy reactions.

The full theoretical model showing all hypotheses is depicted in Figure 1. In this study, participants took part. In a first step, we presented participants with an informed consent stating that the study could contain content that might include violent, emotional, or explicit material that might upset them. Consenting participants were further directed to a common pretest including sociodemographic questions.

Additionally, the pretest for this study included questions about their trait anxiety. In a second step, participants were told that they would be presented with two news articles, which had been published in German news outlets. Participants were asked to pay attention to the news articles.

Subsequently, participants were exposed to the two articles, one after another. Exposure time for each article was forced to a minimum of 20 seconds. After the stimulus presentation, participants completed a questionnaire including the dependent variables as well as the control questions. Upon completion, participants were thanked and debriefed.

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Specifically, participants were informed that the news articles used in the study were modified for the purpose of the study, which was to investigate how news consumers react to terrorism news coverage. They were also told that no inferences could be drawn about real actors or events. Finally, participants were provided with a contact address where they could receive more information about the specific goals of the study and its results. Therefore, we included gender as control variable in all analyses.

Based on existing news stories, two news articles about terrorist attacks or other IS activities were created for each condition Appendix A in the online supporting information. Control group participants were exposed to neutral articles with no cue to terrorism pets, school work. All articles were designed elaborately to make them look like authentic news articles that had actually been published on the web portals of two popular German online mainstream newspapers.

The first news story covered a terrorist attack in a large shopping center nondiffuse conditions or a small privately owned shoe store diffuse conditions in a small German town Halle where seven people were injured with a knife. The second article dealt with the general terror threat in Germany including a short interview with the head of Europol. The expert either described that the terror threat is especially high at events and places where the threat is rather predictable e.

All other passages of the articles remained unchanged and consisted of the identical general information. All articles had approximately words. Each participant was exposed to two news articles and rated whether the articles portrayed the terror threat as nondiffuse e.


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Additionally, we asked participants how high the number of potential Islamist offenders was in the articles. All items can be found in Appendix B in the online supporting information. First, we asked participants whether the articles conveyed a nondiffuse e. We used a dummy variable for each experimental factor. By using a lower number of items for each index, the model fit can be improved. All factor loadings were between.

Understanding the Meanings and Consequences of Terrorism

To further test for discriminant validity, we constrained the individual factors as equal and conducted nested model comparisons with the original model. In a second step, we conducted a path analysis using the lavaan package. All main findings remain robust when applying this procedure. The experimental conditions were dummy coded with the control group as reference group yielding four dummy variables in total. Gender was controlled in the analysis, as randomization was not successful.


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  7. All findings are shown in Table 1. Our first hypothesis postulated that a higher number of offenders would lead to higher fear of terror compared to a low number of offenders H1a or a control group H1b. Thus, while 1a has to be rejected, Hypothesis 1b can be supported. Furthermore, we assumed that news articles describing a diffuse terror threat would lead to higher fear of terror compared to news articles which describe a nondiffuse terror threat H2a or do not deal with terror H2b. Hence, we only found support for Hypothesis 2b, not for Hypothesis 2a.

    Our findings also revealed that news articles featuring a high number of potential offenders and a nondiffuse terror threat evoked the highest fear. Therefore, our third hypothesis H3 , which stated that fear of terror would be highest when individuals are exposed to news articles describing a high number of offenders and a diffuse terror threat was rejected. Furthermore, in our fourth hypothesis, we assumed that a high number of potential offenders increased anger on government compared to a low number of potential offenders H4a or a control group H4b. Thus, Hypothesis 4a has to be rejected.

    Moreover, we postulated in our fifth hypothesis H5 that exposure to news articles featuring a nondiffuse terror threat would increase anger on government in comparison with exposure to news articles featuring a diffuse terror threat H5a or which do not deal with terrorism H5b. As stated above, we found that news articles featuring a high number of offenders and a nondiffuse terror threat increased anger on government. Hence, Hypothesis 5a received no support, while Hypothesis 5b only received partial support.

    However, our sixth hypothesis H6 postulating that exposure to news articles featuring a high number of offenders and a nondiffuse terror threat would evoke the highest anger on government could be supported. Combined with frequent and vivid news coverage about terrorism, this development may spur fear and anger that IS terror may basically hit us everywhere, at all times, and all places. We developed a theoretical model, that aims to explain for the first time how threat components such as threat severity i. First, our findings suggest that a high number of offenders does not universally create more fear of terror than a low number of offenders.

    However, more research is needed to determine whether the persuasion route is indeed responsible for the lack of difference between fear of terror in response to news emphasizing a high versus a low number of offenders. Yet with regard to whether a threat is diffuse or not, we found that a diffuse threat does always create a fear of terror, irrespective of whether there is a low or a high number of offenders. The reason for this is that a diffuse threat is entirely unpredictable, and thus, it does not matter if there are many or few potential terrorists.

    It is this diffuse unpredictability of harmful events that seems to inhibit rational thinking. From a rational perspective, the higher the number of offenders, the higher the likelihood of threat, even given a diffuse terror threat. One could speculate that this is exactly what the IS has been trying to create: There may be only a few potential terrorists in a country, maybe only one single person, but this person can commit a terroristic attack at any random place, harming or even killing a considerable number of people, creating fear and uncertainty among the public.

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    However, when there is a nondiffuse terror threat, the number of offenders does matter. We found that exposure to news articles describing a nondiffuse threat only increased fear of terror when the number of offenders was high. When there were only a few offenders and the threat was nondiffuse, no fear was elicited compared to a control condition.

    Nondiffuse threats are those one perceives to be able to control, for instance, by avoiding large crowds, rush hours, or big events Herzenstein et al. Thus, when there is only a low number of offenders, the perceived likelihood that one is hit by an attack is low. That is, the presentation of quantitative information may stimulate individuals to rely on a peripheral cue such as the description of the threat as unpredictable and diffuse.

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    Interestingly, fear of terror was highest for those who read terrorism news about high number of potential offenders targeting nondiffuse places. A possible explanation of that finding is the fact that nondiffuse places cannot be completely avoided by most people i. Yet when people visit such places, they are aware of the fact that a terroristic attack may happen Herzenstein et al. Thus, the higher the number of offenders, the higher the threat. Rephrased, nondiffuse places are simply more salient, that is, we usually realize that when we enter one.

    That awareness, combined with a higher number of offenders, leads to the strongest fear. By contrast, in diffuse threat settings, it is impossible to raise the awareness of a specific threat, because this threat is present at any time one leaves the house. In that situation, the number of offenders is irrelevant because the threat is omnipresent.

    Besides fear, anger on government was only increased for those who read news articles about a high number of potential offenders and a nondiffuse terror threat.

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    That finding is in line with previous research suggesting that anger is elicited when situations are controllable and highly relevant see Huddy et al. In other words, when the government fails to prevent a terrorist attack even though the threat was well known due to the many offenders and although the threat was nondiffuse and therefore controllable by the government, anger is elicited. We also showed that the effect of anger was stronger than the effect of fear. This is in line with appraisal theories suggesting that anxiety should promote threat aversion while anger motivates support for action against a threatening source Huddy et al.

    It is the only condition that elicited both anger and fear. Before we turn to limitations and future research, we need to rule out some alternative explanations. First, one may argue that nondiffuse terror threat, compared to diffuse ones, are those that kill more people at once, and thus, it is not controllability that has been manipulated but perceived damage. However, when carefully examining our stimulus materials, damage has not been mentioned. Also, the number of victims and the terror weapon did not differ between the conditions, and in fact, diffuse attacks can lead to the same number of victims compared to nondiffuse ones.

    Second, the manipulation of nondiffuse versus diffuse attacks may lead the audience to make conclusions about the number of offenders, and vice versa. However, as our manipulation check variables revealed, this has not been the case. There was no effect of the controllability manipulation on the perceived number of offenders, nor did both manipulations interact.

    By the same token, there were also no effects of the numbers of offenders on the perception that terrorist attacks were diffuse or nondiffuse. Finally, respondents from rural areas may have reacted differently compared to respondents from bigger cities. However, we repeated the analysis controlling for the number of inhabitants of the place where the respondents live. This, however, had no effect on the findings.

    Yet there are a number of important limitations.