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May 2nd, 2011

Following is the abstract of a psychological evaluation of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, conducted in the months following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The full 26-page report and related threat assessments are available to selected professionals upon request.


The Personality Profile of Al-Qaida Leader Osama Bin Laden

Aubrey Immelman
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
June 2002


The report presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of Osama bin Laden.

Information concerning bin Laden was collected from open-source biographies and media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Bin Laden’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/exploitative and Dauntless/dissenting, with a secondary Distrusting/suspicious orientation, and subsidiary Dominant/controlling and Conscientious/dutiful features.

Ambitious (narcissistic) individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and often act as though entitled. Dauntless persons (adventurous with possible antisocial tendencies) are bold, courageous, and tough; minimally constrained by the norms of society; routinely engage in high-risk activities; not overly concerned about the welfare of others; skilled in the art of social influence; and adept at surviving on the strength of their talents, ingenuity, and wits.

Bin Laden’s blend of Ambitious and Dauntless personality patterns suggests the presence of a syndrome that psychologist Theodore Millon has labeled the “unprincipled narcissist.” This composite character complex combines the narcissists arrogant sense of self-worth, exploitative indifference to the welfare of others, and grandiose expectation of special recognition with the antisocial personalitys self-aggrandizement, deficient social conscience, and disregard for the rights of others.

A major implication of the study is that bin Laden does not fit the profile of the highly conscientious, closed-minded religious fundamentalist, nor that of the religious martyr who combines these qualities with devout, self-sacrificing features; rather, it suggests that bin Laden is adept at exploiting Islamic fundamentalism in the service of his own ambition and personal dreams of glory.


Full research report

The Personality Profile of al-Qaida Leader Osama bin Laden

Paper presented at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Berlin, July 16–19, 2002


5/21/2015 Update

Documents Found in the Osama bin Laden Compound

A selection of documents found at the al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan that were declassified and released on Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (Washington Post, May 20, 2015)

More about the documents and books found


Related psychological profiles

Ayman al-Zawahiri Personality Profile

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Personality Profile

Image: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beirut

Kim Jong-Il Personality Profile

An image from North Korean television on April 9 shows leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

Robert Mugabe Personality Profile

Robert Mugabe


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — May 2, 2010

Times Square Bomb Plot Suspects

Times Square bomb plot
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly speaks about car bomb in Times Square (left), beside surveillance video still of dark SUV loaded with bomb (right, circled in red). (Photo credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

One year ago today, I reported that police investigating a failed car bomb left in Times Square had videotape of a possible suspect shedding clothing in an alley and putting it in a bag.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — May 2, 2009

Iraq Insurgent Infiltration

FILE - In this March 16, 2009 file photo, a U.S. A...
In this March 16, 2009 file photo, a U.S. Army soldier stands guard as Iraqi police officers enter a house during a joint search operation in southwestern Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. A Feb. 24, 2009 shooting that killed a U.S. soldier and an interpreter and wounded five others was an alarming inside job that reinforced what many fear: insurgents and sympathizers possibly infiltrating the ranks of Iraq’s security forces. (Photo credit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP)

Two years ago today, on May 2, 2009, I reported that an attacker wearing an Iraqi army uniform shot dead two U.S. soldiers outside the volatile northern city of Mosul, Iraq; provided an update of key facts, figures, and statistics on Iraq since the war began in March 2003; and noted the latest security incidents in Iraq.

4 Responses to “Bin Laden Psychological Profile”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bin Laden Watching Himself on TV Says:

    […] Bin Laden Psychological Profile (May 2, 2011) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Osama bin Laden’s Porn Stash Says:

    […] Osama bin Laden Psychological Profile (May 2, 2011) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bin Laden Personality Profile Says:

    […] Osama bin Laden Psychological Profile […]

  4. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Dead Says:

    […] Based on my informal observations, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s psychological profile resembles Ayman al-Zawahiri (fundamentalist “abrasive negativist”) more closely than Osama Bin Laden (nonfundamentalist “unprincipled narcissist”). […]

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