Fanaticism Through the Looking Glass of Simulations

Hemda Ben-Yehuda, Guy Zohar
  • Journal of Political Science Education, February 2018, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2017.1418367

Simulations as an innovative tool to study fanaticism

What is it about?

Students were instructed to role-play actors in world politics, being various types of decision-makers, some of them including Hitler, ISIS terrorists, or other fanatic leaders. The scenarios we used were scripted to let the students frame their objectives as a team along the lines of “We are now the U.S., U.K., ISIS, Nazi Germany, or Iran. What do we want to do?” The student teams next spent some time interacting in Facebook groups or face-to-face, confronting opponents, and negotiating to manage crisis situations. Finally, after the experimental exercise ended, they reported their feelings and reactions. The students’ self-evaluation reports constitute the new data set for this article. Results from 196 students who confronted fanaticism in simulations showed that most respondents tend to downplay and underestimate fanaticism in the situation, see themselves as moderate and label their rivals as fanatics, regardless of both sides' actual behavior.

Why is it important?

In a world of barbaric terror, ethnic and religious violence, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unstable leaders, teaching and studying fanaticism seems more important than ever. Simulations provide interactive negotiations, improve critical thinking, and consideration of moral dilemmas that can become vital elements for advancing a deeper understanding of fanaticism and ways to handle it in the future.


Guy Zohar (Author)
Universitat Bar-Ilan

I hope this article will advance the use of simulations in higher education and provide students with an exciting environment to study about fanaticism.

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The following have contributed to this page: Guy Zohar