Engineers have terrorist mindset, says Oxford researcher

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Oxford research has claimed that there is a strong link between the “mindset” of engineering students and Islamic extremism.Diego Gambetta, of Nuffield College, and Steffen Hertog, a lecturer at Durham concluded in their paper ‘Engineers of Jihad’ that there is strong relationship between an engineering background and involvement in Islamic terrorist groups. The authors found that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, but engineers alone are over-represented among those who gravitate to violent groups. Hertog explained, “We had heard the anecdotal story that engineers are more prone to right-wing and religious thinking than people of other faculties so we checked the educational background of radical actors.  We found that a high proportion had been through higher education and found that among these actors engineers were clearly over-represented compared to actors from other degree backgrounds.”
The paper does not suggest that it is engineers’ technical skills that made them more attractive to radical groups. Instead, it says that among engineers there is a  “mindset bias” which is more likely to attract a larger number of them to Islamic extremism.  “Studies have shown that Engineers are more right-wing and religious than other faculties.  There may exist a mind-set bias among engineers towards conservatism, they may be attracted to the predictability, the strong hierarchies, and the desire for a lost order [that is apparent in Islamic extremism],” Hertog said. “There are very few engineers involved in left-wing extremism,” he continued.
The research claims that this “mindset” has particular impact when the social conditions endured are tough. “Engineering is considered a very high-status degree in Islamic countries so engineers are more likely to be frustrated by the poor socio-economic conditions and lack of social mobility in their countries,” Hertog said.The authors claim that engineers might have “peculiar cognitive traits and dispositions” which makes a disproportionate number of them open to right-wing traits of “monism”, believing that there is one best solution, and “simplism”, the idea that if only people were rational, remedies would be simple.  A past survey in the United States has shown that there is a higher proportion of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum than any other disciplinary group.  
“We could thus hypothesize that personal dispositions and style of thinking among engineers differ from those of students in other subjects in ways that could make them more prone to become involved in violent forms of radicalization, not just as willing recruits but as prime movers,” the paper states.  However, it adds that its findings are not proof of its mindset theory.“The mindset hypothesis predicts that we should find engineers to have more extreme ideological tendencies than people in other disciplines, and a greater predilection towards joining radical political groups in general,” the research continues.  In addition, the report also argues that engineers might be more present among right-wing and religious groups because of a another “mindset” feature, “preservatism”, the craving to restore a lost order of authority and privilege. “This way we (try to) explain why they’re not present on the left, but present on both the right and among Islamists”, said Hertog.A third-year engineer at Pembroke said,  “I think the ability of an engineer to act in a purely practical and clinical way, removing the element of human feeling to an extent, sits quite well with terrorism.” But he added that an engineering “mindset” alone would not be enough to attract people to terrorism. Octave Oppetit, another third-year engineer, commented, “We believe it is our god-given right to knock down what we have built up in the first place.”Hertog emphasised that the study does not claim that all, or even many, engineers have a quasi-terrorist ‘mindset’, saying, “We do not make generalizations about engineers in general, just about the radical fringe among them.”The authors hope to continue their studies, saying that they want to better explain the over-representation of engineers in extremist Islamic groups. “We want to conduct further psychological cognitive studies on individuals to put our fingers on exactly what it is that explains the over-representation of engineers amongst Islamic radicals,” said Hertog.  “Engineering is merely a proxy for some underlying condition that tends towards right wing and extreme religious views,” he added.
Hertog concluded, “There is strong evidence to suggest that nothing predicts a person’s social and political views as well as their faculties, and, at least according to US data, engineers are outliers in their religious and right-wing views.”by Nadya Thorman 

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