inform and advance future research on threat assessments, in part by considering the approaches and techniques used to analyze communications and behavior in the dynamic context of today’s world.
Each author was asked to present and assess scientific research on the correlation between communication-relevant factors and the likelihood that an individual who poses a threat will act on it. The authors were encouraged to consider not only communications containing direct threats, but also odd and inappropriate communications that could display evidence of fixation, obsession, grandiosity, entitled reciprocity, and mental illness.
In “Using Computerized Text Analysis to Assess Threatening Communications and Behavior,” Cindy K. Chung and James W. Pennebaker provide an overview of computerized language techniques for detecting and assessing text-based threats. Approaches include the analysis of language-based datasets (corpora) to help identify and understand threatening communications and responses to them through the study of words.
In “Communications-Based Research Related to Threats and Ensuing Behavior,” H. Dan O’Hair, Daniel Rex Bernard, and Randy R. Roper stress the importance and difficulty of using knowledge gained from communication theory and practice to study threatening behavior and develop useful strategies for managing violent behavior.
In “Approaching and Attacking Public Figures: A Contemporary Analysis of Communications and Behavior,” J. Reid Meloy reviews and integrates recent research on threatening communication and its relationship to escalation, approach, or attack behaviors toward public figures.
The papers in this collection were written within the context of protecting high-profile public figures from potential attack or harm. The research, however, is broadly applicable to U.S. national security including potential applications for analysis of communications from leaders of hostile nations and public threats from terrorist groups. This work highlights the complex psychology of threatening communications and behavior, and it offers knowledge and perspectives from multiple domains that can contribute to a deeper understanding of the value of communications in predicting and preventing violent behaviors.