Can a Copycat Effect be Observed in Terrorist Suicide Attacks?

28 Mar 2017

By Nicholas Farnham and Dr. Marieke Liem.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how a copycat effect – established within the field of suicide studies – may manifest itself in terrorist suicide attacks, and takes an exploratory approach in evaluating the prospect of incorporating open-data resources in future counter-terrorism research. This paper explores a possible ‘copycat effect’ in cases of suicide terrorism, which entails a perpetrator being inspired by a preceding attack to carry out a similar attack not long after the original. In the wake of mounting risks of lone wolf terrorist attacks today and due to the general difficulties faced in preventing such attacks, in this paper we explore a potential area of future prevention in media reporting, security and anti-terrorism policies today. Using the START Global Terrorism Database (GTD), this paper investigates terrorist suicide-attack clusters and analyses the relationship between attacks found within the same cluster. Using a mixed-method approach, our analyses did not uncover clear evidence supporting a copycat effect among the studied attacks. These and other findings have numerous policy and future research implications.

Read the Research Paper.


How to cite: Farnham, N. and M. Liem. “Can a Copycat Effect be Observed in Terrorist Suicide Attacks?”, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 8, no. 4 (2017).

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19165/2017.1.04