Closeup photograph of carving on Farrah Hall

Adam Lankford

Adam Lankford
Associate Professor

Farrah 414
(205) 348-9901

Curriculum Vitae

  • Ph.D. - Justice, Law & Society, American University, 2008
  • M.S.- Justice, Law & Society, American University, 2007
  • B.A.- English, Haverford College, 2002

Research Focus:

  • Social Deviance
  • Criminology
  • Terrorism & Counterterrorism
  • Mass Shootings

Teaching Interests:

  • Terrorism & Homeland Security
  • Law Enforcement

Selected Publications

Order from

The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers

For decades, experts have told us that suicide bombers are the psychological equivalent of America's 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 corrects this misconception, arguing that terrorists are driven to suicide for the same reasons any civilian might be: depression, anxiety, marital strife, or professional failure. 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 will transform the way we think of terrorism forever.


Praise for
The Myth of Martyrdom...

"A lively, insightful, and evidence-based analysis of the most disruptive phenomenon in world affairs today."

—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

"A criminal-justice specialist, Lankford presents compelling, well-synthesized evidence for his case."


"a fascinating book with profound implications."

—David Lester, former president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention

“A critically important contribution to the literature and, one hopes, to our counter-terrorism.”

—Jessica Stern, former Director of Russian Affairs, National Security Council, and author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

"A coherent, must read for all who would claim to be experts in terrorismor just curious."

—Jim Simon, former Asst. Director of Central Intelligence for Administration, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence

"a benchmark that others will have to consider." 

—Donald Daniel, security studies professor, Georgetown University, and former Special Adviser to the Chairman, National Intelligence Council

"A provocative and eye-opening look at the psychological forces that drive suicide terrorists to seek their own destruction."

—Peter Langman, author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters

"Anyone who wants to fully understand the threat we face must read this powerful book." 

—Ken Ballen, former federal prosecutor, U.S. Department of Justice, and author of Terrorists in Love: True Life Stories of Islamic Radicals

"A fierce attack on the view that suicide terrorists are true martyrs to a cause, worthy of respect or honor because of their commitment."

—Kirkus Reviews

"Lankford draws clear distinctions between true heroism and its pretenders...[and] builds an impressive case for his view of suicide terrorism...If the courage assumed of suicide terrorism is its most powerful weapon, we can disarm this threat by denying its practitioners the myth of martyrdom."

—Scientific American Mind

"Boldly challenging conventional ideas about the motivating factors behind suicide attacks...Lankford makes a convincing case that is well supported by studies and anecdotal evidence."

—The National (United Arab Emirates)