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Terrorist Hostage-Taking and Kidnapping: Using Script Theory to Predict the Fate of a Hostage

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 31 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2008 Pages: 736-748
Minwoo Yun; Mitchel Roth
Date Published
August 2008
13 pages
This study examined the potential of consistent patterns in terrorist hostage-taking and kidnapping.
This study found an identifiable pattern in terrorist hostage-taking and kidnapping. Hostage-taking groups with Islamic motivation were found to be more likely to execute their victims. Hostage-takers who made demands were found to be more likely to release their victims safely, and a hostage was also more likely to be released when the crisis responder engaged in the negotiation. It is noted that Script theory, developed in the discipline of cognitive psychology, explains that human behavior, whether brutal or benevolent, typically has a certain pattern to it because every human is programmed to some extent by learned experience. This experience, or script, can determine how an individual, such as a hostage-taker/kidnapper, will respond to a particular stimulus or event, i.e., a hostage-taking/kidnapping situation. This study hypothesized that script theory could be applied to cases of terrorist hostage-taking and kidnapping to determine the fate of a hostage, either to execute or to release. Data were obtained from 764 cases of terrorist hostage-taking and kidnapping data originally collected by the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG). Two hundred thirty four cases were finally selected for the analysis, which used the logistic regression method. Figure, tables, notes