“A lively, insightful, and evidence-based analysis of the most disruptive phenomenon in world affairs today.”
– Steven Pinker, Harvard University


The Myth of Martyrdom:

What Really Drives Rampage Shooters, Suicide Bombers, and Other Self-Destructive Killers

For decades, experts have told us that suicide bombers are the psychological equivalent of Navy SEALs–men and women so fully committed to their cause or faith that they cease to fear death. In The Myth of Martyrdom, Adam Lankford challenges this narrow view, arguing that terrorists are driven to suicide for the same reasons others are: desperation, hopelessness, and the desire to escape a crisis. He takes readers on a journey through the minds of suicide bombers, airplane hijackers, ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, and rampage shooters, via their suicide notes, love letters, diary entries, and martyrdom videos. The result is an astonishing account of rage and shame that may transform the way we think of terrorism forever.


“A critically important contribution to the literature and, one hopes, to our counter-terrorism”
– Jessica Stern, former Director of Russian Affairs, National Security Council


“Lankford presents compelling, well-synthesized evidence for his case”
– Nature


“The book is fascinating…a valuable contribution to America’s quest to stop mass killings”
– Financial Times


“Lankford draws clear distinctions between true heroism and its pretenders”
– Scientific American Mind




“A valuable study of the factors that can lead ‘normal’ people to commit abnormal atrocities.”

-Journal of Genocide Research


Human Killing Machines:

Systematic Indoctrination in Iran, Nazi Germany, Al Qaeda, and Abu Ghraib

Addressing one of the most serious threats to the world today, Human Killing Machines applies the model of systematic indoctrination to case studies of brutality in Iran, Nazi Germany, Al Qaeda, and Abu Ghraib. The book reveals how these transformations take place–how systems redefine morality to turn ordinary people into torturers, terrorists, and genocidal killers. Adam Lankford also provides a side-by-side comparison of these cases across six critical variables, in order to identify key similarities and differences and the potential for strategic countermeasures.


“Lankford’s research on violent systematic indoctrination is worthy scholarship…and should be required reading for members of the military, especially those assigned to counterterrorist duties.”

-International Criminal Justice Review


“A work of diligent scholarship marked by skillful exposition and compelling prose.”

-Robert Johnson, American University


“Lankford’s well-written and provocative new book…delivers a behavioral model that goes a long way toward explaining otherwise inexplicably inhuman actions by “normal” human beings.”

-John T. Fishel, National Defense University