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Managing Identity Fusion for a Safer Society

Recent research suggests that identity fusion, a visceral sense of oneness with the group, is capable for motivating extreme pro-group action such as suicide terrorism. De-radicalizing terrorists might therefore be re-construed as a process of de-fusing would-be attackers. This might involve a process of reframing or reinterpreting self-defining memories that give rise to identity fusion in the first place. Conversely there may be benefits in fostering processes of fusion in persons who lack socially desirable group alignments, for example convicted criminals. If a goal of the criminal justice system is to reform prisoners, to reintegrate them into society as loyal and law-abiding citizens, then one way to do this might be to facilitate fusion with mainstream groups and values. Yet another potential application of fusion theory would be neither to create nor to obstruct group alignments but to harness existing ones, for example to rebuild societies devastated by conflicts or natural disasters.