Fear, Social Context (Not Mental Illness) Fuel Violent Extremist Views

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When a self-described white supremacist murdered 10 people in a racially motivated attack in Buffalo, New York, some questioned his mental health. White supremacy comes from a variety of sources in society, but is not rooted in mental illness, says Christine Reyna, a social psychologist and DePaul University Professor.

Reyna is director of the Social and Intergroup Perception Lab at DePaul, where researchers examine how individuals and groups legitimize and leverage prejudice and discrimination to maintain status, cultural values and systems that benefit one's own groups — often at the expense of others. 

In a recent publication, Reyna explores the current rhetoric that is fueling this particularly violent strain of white nationalism in the United States. Published in the journal “Social Issues and Policy Review”, Reyna and her co-authors bring together research that details how white racial extremist views take hold and offers solutions for how policymakers should address them.

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