Selling terror
: Excitement, emotion-driven choice and ISIS's recruitment in Britain

  • Anna Kruglova

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the question of why ISIS followers were so easily convinced to join the group in 2014–2017 in spite of its public demonstration of brutality and numerous reports confirming its crimes. The phenomenon of ISIS’s propaganda is explored through the prism of the emotion-driven choice model, which originates from marketing, and explains how customers can be convinced to choose a particular brand. The model demonstrates that ISIS manipulated its followers’ emotions by appealing to their desire for self-expression and being a part of a ‘cool’ group. ISIS constructed its propaganda in a way that offers the group’s potential recruits a number of attractive self-images, which the recruits could use to construct an identity as a better version of themselves. The feeling of excitement caused by the newly acquired identities made the recruits fully adhere to the group’s ideology and eventually join it. ISIS also employed several guilt-relieving mechanisms to prevent its followers from disengagement.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorRichard English (Supervisor) & Alister Miskimmon (Supervisor)


  • ISIS
  • branding
  • propaganda
  • recruitment
  • emotions

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