About the Quiz

Welcome to the “Poisonous Minds” Quiz!

Like most quizzes, this multiple choice quiz tests your knowledge. However, unlike most quizzes, the quiz is primarily designed as a way to inform analysts and policymakers about some key recent findings related to the psychology (motivations, judgment and decision making) of non-state actors who choose to pursue chemical and biological (CB) weapons.

We expect that by “gamifying” the learning process, it will help you to become aware of some of the latest research on the topic. We really do not expect you to know the correct answer to all of the questions the first time you take the quiz. In fact, although some of the questions might be answered by folks who have been following the CB terrorism issue for some time, there are other questions that we don’t expect anyone to be able to answer right off the bat.

The quiz is therefore designed to be taken multiple times and the true goal is not to get the highest score the first time you take it, but rather to improve your score each time you take it (which indicates how much you have learned). So, if you want to compete with your colleagues, you should compare your scores after taking the quiz several times. To keep things interesting, the questions will appear in a different order each time you take the quiz.

This also explains why some of the answers are fairly detailed and accompanied by charts or other graphics – this provides important context and in many ways reviewing the answers closely is even more important than getting the question right. So, we recommend reading the answers even if you get the question correct.

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The “Poisonous Minds” quiz is a product of a broader research project conducted by the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) titled Profiling the CB Adversary: Motivation, Psychology and Decision-making. This project, which was conducted between July 2016 and August 2017, was undertaken to comprehensively characterize the psychology of non-state CB adversaries and to provide strategic guidance to the Chemical and Biological Defense Division of DHS (CBD) on incorporating these aspects into its risk reduction efforts.

The questions in this quiz only present a sample of the findings of the overall project, which consisted of:

  • A review and synthesis of the available scientific and scholarly literature, including both the latest specific studies concerning violent non-state actors (VNSAs) and unconventional weapons, as well as broader relevant literatures in psychology, criminology and political science.
  • An alternative analysis of why VNSAs might decide not to pursue CB agents.
  • Iterated development of a CB adversary psychological framework encapsulating the major dynamics and salient features of the motivation and intent to pursue and/or use CB agents to cause harm.
  • Testing and enhancing the framework using empirical data on prior CB adversaries.
  • Application of the insights learned to a detailed analysis of the strategic and tactical CB choices of the so-called Islamic State.
  • Distillation of findings into a set of indicators that can be utilized to assess the strength of motivations of known and potential adversaries for pursuing a CB weapons capability.

Further information on obtaining other products related to the project, which include:

  • The detailed Project Report
  • A project Factsheet
  • The Islamic State CB Profile
  • A detailed infographic providing summary findings
  • A worksheet providing motivational indicators to guide threat assessments
is available by contacting Markus Binder, Project Manager, UWT (mkbinder@umd.edu).

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Written by: Gary Ackerman
Design: Gary Ackerman, Aaron Solomon, Rebecca Earnhardt, Markus Binder
Coding and Implementation: Scott Candey, Aaron Solomon, Brian Payne, Jillian Quigley, Cassidy Laidlaw
Special Thanks to the rest of the CB Psych Team: Cory Davenport, Herbert Tinsley, Crystal Watson, Matt Watson, Tara-Kirk Sell, Michelle Jacome, Helena Craig, and Lauren Samuelsen

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chemical and Biological Defense Division through award number 2012-ST-061-CS0001-05. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or START.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs through a Center of Excellence program led by the University of Maryland. START uses state-of-the-art theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve understanding of the origins, dynamics and social and psychological impacts of terrorism. For more information, visit www.start.umd.edu.