Four dot points to end the chapter

  • • Prospect theory is a descriptive model of the decision-making process that people follow when making decisions under conditions of risk and uncertainty.
  • • The reference point is a key concept in prospect theory. Among other things, it is a natural trigger for copycat behaviour.
  • • Terrorists seeking to emulate or surpass the achievements of an idol or predecessor choose attack methods and targets from the perspective of the reference point set by the outcomes the predecessor achieved.
  • • Various positions relative to the reference point are possible. If the terrorist confronts a strong possibility of failing to surpass the reference point, the terrorist will be more risk seeking and might even be prompted to innovate, especially by combining attack methods.


  • 1 Nacos (2009, p.3).
  • 2 More than $1,280,000 in 2020 dollars.
  • 3 See Chapter 1.
  • 4 Approximately S3,100,000 in 2020 dollars.
  • 5 For example,Tversky and Kahneman (1974).
  • 6 In most cases, the minority number is reflective of the number of participants who chose in a manner consistent with the axioms of expected utility. This is an interesting result on its own because it shows that expected utility theory, despite not being a descriptive model of choice, may still describe the decision-making process of about 20 percent of the subjects! In other studies, the figure is roughly 40 percent.
  • 7 See Hershey and Schoemaker (1980).
  • 8 SeeWakkeretal. 1997.
  • 9 Tversky and Kahneman (1992) revised the terminology and now call it the ‘framing phase’.
  • 10 We use ‘column inches’ as a catch-all unit of measurement for media attention. One could just as easily use ‘hits’,‘downloads’ and so on.
  • 11 This process is discussed in more detail and compared with prospect theory in Chapter 8.
  • 12 Terrorists and terrorist groups commonly combine attack methods. Combinations are discussed in the next chapter.
  • 13 Proportion here refers to the ‘magnitude’ or ‘scale’ of the effect of the terrorist action. RAF members decided that their next action had to be ‘bigger’ than the kidnapping of Lorenz (Winkler 2007, p.252).
  • 14 Another terror group on friendly terms with the Palestinians, that is, the Japanese Red Army, successfully hijacks a Japanese aircraft on September 28 1977. On the first day of the event the Japanese government gives in to the demands of the hijackers: 9 Japanese Red Army group members are released from prison and 6 million dollars paid in ransom. Algeria, one of the possible ‘countries of choice’ for RAF prisoners to be exchanged for Schleyer, agrees to accept all released Japanese Red Army prisoners (Winkler 2007, p.330).
  • 15 The correlation between inflicted fatalities and media attention is probably quite obvious but if‘proof’ were needed that more fatalities equates to more media attention, one need look no further than Australian journalist James Glenday’s (2019) comments:

When a mass shooting takes place in the United States, a morbid question is immediately asked in cash-strapped newsrooms across the country and around the world. Is the death toll high enough to justify sending reporters to the scene? Between travel costs and manpower, coverage is expensive. For many media organisations, the threshold for sending a team to the site is a death toll with double figures.The bloody yardstick is not the only consideration, though it is a common one. In my former ABC bureau in London, 10 or more dead in an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack in mainland Europe meant we would usually hit the road.

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