Several media reports are suggesting that the Orlando shooter is a terrorist. Whether he is or is not has yet to be concluded. Nonetheless, the speculation that the shooting is associated with terrorist activity serves to create terror. 

To understand the implications of terror or the perception of terror, the following facts are provided. 

One of the goals of terrorism is to instill anxiety, fear, terror, and hate. The psychology behind this is straightforward: Get a person or a group of people to become so anxious or fearful that they are either afraid to take action or will engage in hostile re-actions. The hostility then breeds acts of anger, violence, or hate. Thus, perpetuating terror, fears of being victimized, and subsequent acts of terror.

To help reduce the anxiety and fear that our country is experiencing in light of the Orlando shooting tragedy, it is important to understand the typical psychological profile of a terrorist.

The knowledge herein is to help reduce overall anxiety as well as fear or prejudice against persons who have or appear to have characteristics similar to the Orlando shooter; Thus, reducing the power of any possible terrorist-related aims as well as the fear and potential for reactionary hate or violence.

Terrorism is best understood in terms of political and group dynamics; and social psychological processes. There is a "group think" based on the terrorist group believing it lacks the resources or political power to support its agenda. Individuals are recruited to help carry out the group agenda. 

Contrary to popular belief, individuals recruited are not "pathological" or "insane". In general, persons who are typically vulnerable to terrorist recruitment are likely to:

  • Have a strong desire to connect with a group and receive the social benefits of belongingness, group power, security, and increased sense of purpose. 
  • Be angry or feel alienated from general society.
  • Have a sense of connection with the perceived victims of the perceived social injustice they are seeking to change.
  • Be action-oriented even with little information; feeling a strong need to take aggressive action against the perceived injustice.
  • Believe that violence is necessary and not immoral.
  • Objectify the enemy, dehumanizing them.
  • Feel deprived and are dissatisfied with life.
  • Experience a sense of urgency in resolving perceived injustices. 
  • May or may not have extreme religious or political views. 
  • Believe they are morally superior to their victims/enemy. 
  • Fear extinction of the group they have become identified.


While there is no one specific personality profile of all terrorists or all terrorist groups. However, the above traits are the most common traits found in individuals who are recruited and, ultimately, classified as terrorists. 


The Carr Advisory Group provides premium, confidential, psychology-based advisory services to clients with public or high visibility profiles; or high-level professional positions. Expertise areas includes Critical Incident Response for Large-Scale and National Tragedies, Psychological & Personality Profiles, Political Psychology, and Media Crisis Recovery.