Defusing Explosive Situations on the Front Line
Sam Gosling, associate professor of psychology, studies what personality traits make military working dogs—the ones that sniff for bombs in combat, shipping containers and other situations—best suited to finding explosives in the field.
During his years of researching animal personalities, Gosling has found that a dog’s temperament—how it reacts to stressful situations—is more important than the most sensitive nose.
Temperament assessments have not been part of the selection and training process for military working dogs. But, Gosling is working to identify the traits of a good temperament in training groups at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He is working with Stewart Hilliard, chief of the Military Working Dog Training Course and Military Working Dog Evaluations at the 341st regiment.
Three traits that Gosling thinks are important to a good temperament are: boldness or braveness, resilience (bouncing back quickly after a stressful situation) and motivation.
Based on the research findings, Gosling says changes can be made to the military’s training process to identify good dogs rapidly and effectively.
Professor Examines Profile of a Suicide Bomber
What makes a person willing to take his or her own life, as well as the lives of several, if not dozens, of strangers?
“People’s initial reaction to a suicide bomber is to think the person is crazy or a religious zealot, but that’s not the case,” says Ami Pedahzur, author of “Suicide Terrorism” and associate professor of government and Middle Eastern studies. “Most suicide bombers see themselves as soldiers carrying out a mission to inflict damage on the enemy.”
When suicide attacks gained notoriety in the early 1980s, scientists set out to decipher the personality of a suicide terrorist.
Unfortunately, years of research and several theories were unable to identify common characteristics that transcended the personalities of people committing these attacks.
Many individuals who become suicide bombers, in fact, could be described as “normal people” who showed no suicidal tendencies prior to committing the act.
Pedahzur’s research indicates that suicide bombers are motivated by a personal commitment to a leader, group or network, or a personal crisis brought about by the suffering of family, friends or community members with whom they feel a deep sense of identification. This crisis motivates them to revenge. Furthermore, they must be in an environment that supports suicide terrorism.
In a community that either is, or perceives itself to be, oppressed by the reigning powers and where an improvement in the situation seems impossible, dying in a suicide attack is seen as an honorable way to help one’s community while ensuring eternal salvation.
Learn more about Pedahzur’s research by reading “On the Edge: Professor Identifies how Suicide Bombers Work on Periphery of Terrorist Networks.”