Dr. Rita Merhej on “The Psychosocial Dimensions of the Extremist Mindset: A content analysis of Ku Klux Klan, Zionist Kahanism and Daesh narratives”
On April 27, 2023, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Social Work and Special Education at Haigazian University, Dr. Rita Merhej presented her recent PhD dissertation entitled “The Psychosocial Dimensions of the Extremist Mindset: A content analysis of Ku Klux Klan, Zionist Kahanism and Daesh narratives”.
The audience consisted of the University President, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, the President of the Lebanese Order of Psychologists (LOPSY), Dr. Leila Acoury-Dirani, the President of the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA), Dr. Michel Nawfal, in addition to faculty members and students.
Dr. Merhej was introduced by the Chair of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Hanine Hout, who considered Merhej’s contribution to the Faculty as substantial, generous and highly appreciated.
Dr. Merhej is a consultant for governmental and non-governmental entities in Lebanon and in the Arab World, an initiator of important projects for the integration of children and youth with disabilities, an author of many publications in English and Arabic in the fields of developmental psychology and social psychology, and an active member of the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA). Last but not least, Dr. Merhej was the recipient of the Souad Al Sabbah Award for Best Cultural Achievement in 2001, for her book “Awladouna” which soon became a best seller and a major reference for good parenting in Lebanon and the Arab world.
In her presentation, Dr. Merhej’s explained how her research, in light of the spread of racial intolerance and extremist thinking in the world today, combines Social Identity Theory and Object-Relations Theory in their understanding of the extremist mindset and proposes an integrated model to highlight the convergences between the two theories in their interpretation of the perception of the Self and the perception of the Other from the extremist’s point of view.
She further elaborated that the research provides a qualitative analysis of the narrative of three extremist organizations of different types (racial, ethnic and religious) and of different historical eras and geographical locations, which allowed her to draw a comprehensive and unified psycho-social profile of extremism across time and space, regardless of the ideological, geo-political and historical specificities of each organization.
Merhej concluded by saying that the analysis allowed her to extract the components of thinking that are opposite to extremism. “We used those to propose a psycho-social-educational model of intervention to buffer extremist thinking in childhood and adolescence and promote moderation, equality, tolerance and critical thinking in the early years”, she noted.
The very insightful lecture was followed with a rich Q & A interaction.
The program concluded with President Haidostian’s word of appreciation and gratitude.
Public Relations Director