Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL)

Read our Inauguration Day Statement in response to the events of January 6, 2021.

PERIL brings the resources and expertise of the university sector to bear on the pressing problem of growing youth polarization and extremist radicalization. Through partnerships, funded research and evaluations, and out-of-the-box design thinking, PERIL empirically tests scalable research, intervention, and public education ideas to reduce rising polarization and hate. What works best to increase youth empathy and cross-cultural understanding? How can media literacy training be made more effective? What intervention approaches work best with youth or with parents, teachers, college advisors and other adults to reduce radicalization and build resilience to extremist narratives? These and other questions are at the heart of PERIL’s work across the ideological spectrum. We connect innovative academic expertise with the public.

Current Projects

Extremely is a podcast for anyone that wants to undersand and interrupt modern hate and extremism. Hosted by Oren Segal and brought to you by ADL and American University. These conversations feature expert analysis and fresh perspective on this global threat and what it might take to stop it in its tracks.

Animated Video on Disinformation and Anti-Government Extremism (in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation). This 7-minute animated video is part of the non-partisan Bertelsmann Foundation’s democracy-strengthening work and tells the fictionalized story of a man who gets radicalized into a ‘boogaloo’ scene during the COVID-19 shutdown. The video will launch in summer 2020 and is paired with an impact study of 250 participants, funded through an internal rapid response to COVID-19 research competition in AU’s School of Public Affairs. The impact study, led by Professors Cynthia Miller-Idriss and David Malet, will test whether a video-based intervention has an impact on the public’s understanding of anti-government extremism and public health misinformation related to COVID-19. Read more about this project in the press release

Thanks to the generosity of IFYC and the hard work of Melil Criezis, additional funding was awarded through their We Are All Eachother's Fund. The following showcases Meili's work to date:

"Meili Criezis works on a research team at PERIL at American University that focuses on violent extremism across ideologies and ways to counter hateful rhetoric by promoting an increased empathy among youth and adults and constructing, as well as, measuring effective counter-narratives against extremist propaganda. Future and current ongoing PERIL projects include resource guides about issues pertaining to violent extremism, focus group studies, and researching extremist spaces online. PERIL aims to be a part of wider collective effort across organizations, disciplines, and individual initiatives that work towards racial equity and interfaith cooperation by researching ways to reduce rising polarization and hate."

Risk, Resilience, and Online Radicalization: Parent and Caregivers’ Toolkit for the COVID-19 Era (funded by and in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center). This guide offers parents and caregivers strategies and tips to recognize the warning signs of youth radicalization as well as new risks in the COVID-19 era, understand the drivers and grievances that create susceptibility to extremist rhetoric, and intervene more effectively. The guide was launched in summer 2020 with a webinar and will be followed by an impact study. It is currently being expanded and revised for broader communities of practitioners with research including focus groups with teachers, educators, school counselors, mental health practitioners and more. 

Current externally-funded research projects include several tests of video-based inoculation interventions. PERIL is testing interventions against scientific racism, male supremacy, and vaccine hesitancy. We are currently expanding video-based inoculation work to French language videos and to new domains, including Holocaust denial and minimization.

PERIL collaborates with a wide range of partners to test existing interventions, design new interventions, and communicate what we know based on empirical research to a wide range of audiences, including developing tools for parents, caregivers, teachers and university communities, mental health practitioners, and coaches and other adults who work with youth. We are building intervention tools to interrupt a wide range of disinformation, online radicalization, and mobilization to violent extremism.

Our Team

Our experts specialize in extremism, polarization, and conflict in the U.S. and globally. 

Learn More

Awards & Recognition

PERIL has been accepted as an Organizational Member with the United State Institute of Peace’s RESOLVE Network. This is a tight group of organizations and we are one of only a few US academic centers included.

View Full List

Photo of Cynthia Miller Idriss

Preventing Radicalization

More on PERIL's partnership with SPLC. Photo by Dan Chung. 

full feature

Capitol rioters on january 6

Uniting for Total Collapse: The January 6 Boost to Accelerationism

Full op ed

Hate in the Homeland book cover

A startling look at violent hate groups

New book out from Cynthia Miller-Idriss, PERIL's Director of Research.

Buy Now

Christchurch report cover

The Christchurch Attack Report

Contributions from Graduate Student Fellow, Chelsea Daymon. 

Full Report

Our Partners

PERIL engages in a variety of partnerships and engagements with external funders and organizations. Current and previous partners include the Anti-Defamation League, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. PERIL is also a strategic partner with the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) in Norway. We welcome inquiries about potential partnerships, collaborative work, or evaluations of existing work by other organizations. Our team includes a range of methodologists who are skilled in process and impact evaluations as well as a range of quantitative, experimental and qualitative methodologies.


Researching the Far Right:
Method and Ethics Webinar Series

Co-organized by C-REX and PERIL.


March 11: When your far right informants are planning something illegal with Katrine Fangen (C-REX, University of Oslo)  

April 8: The relationship between words and actions – and implications for our methods with Kurt Braddock (PERIL, American University) and Bart Schuurman (ISGA) 

May 13: Studying local context to fathom far right mobilization with John W. P. Veuglers and Cathrine Thorleifsson (C-REX, University of Oslo) 

June 10: Overcoming racialization in the field with Vidhya Ramalingam (Moonshot) and Uzair Ahmed (C-REX, University of Oslo)