Bio

Dr. Nichole Argo is a Social Psychologist in the Departments of Engineering and Public Policy and Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, where she uses experimentation, surveys, and mental model methodologies to understand the role of emotion and cognition in decision making about value laden issues, and intergroup conflict and cooperation.

Argo spent several years doing field work on political violence. She is one of the few experts on terrorism and political violence to have interviewed and lived with militants, and was one of the first to provide data to refute the “religion, poverty, or indoctrination” theories of terrorist motivation in 2003. 

Argo interviewed militants and bombers in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Leeds (United Kingdom). In order to understand their lives, she lived amidst their communities. While living in Jerusalem, she interviewed twelve captured Palestinian bombers and three who were still at large. She then moved to the extremist West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, where she lived with and interviewed Israeli settlers surrounding the plot to blow up an Arab Girls’ School in East Jerusalem.  Between 2004-2007, Argo lived in the West Bank and Gaza, where she conducted ethnographic studies of over fifty families of successful Palestinian bombers, and interviewed countless Palestinian “senders” and militants.  To better understand what about radicalization was unique to the Palestinian case and what was generalizable, she took her study to Leeds and London to interview the London 7/7 bombers', families, friends and community members along with the members and neighbors of the Finsbury Park Mosque.

Since returning home, Argo has consulted with governments and think tanks. She co-directed “The Project on Radicalization: A Neuroscientific Approach” with Special Forces Brigadier General Russell Howard at the Center for Counterterrorism at Tufts University, and has made guest appearances on Chicago National Public Radio and Fox News. She has presented her work at Harvard University, University of Chicago, and Stanford, among other Universities.

Argo holds degrees from Stanford, MIT, and the New School for Social Research. Argo’s current research looks at the causes of cost insensitive decision-making: unsettled environments, mortality salience, the sacralization of values, the intergroup empathy bias, the triggers of outgroup dehumanization, and the factors that affect one’s willingness to sacrifice self for the group.