Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL)

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.

Stay engaged with us. 

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."

PERIL is running a number of research projects to empirically test strategies to intervene in the prevention and intervention stages of youth radicalization, including improving resilience pre-exposure as well as building more effective off-ramps to interrupt radicalization processes. This includes current and planned research projects in youth online spaces, the mixed martial arts, online gaming, college campuses, and more, on topics including male supremacy/incels, race science and white supremacist extremism, anti-government extremism, and conspiracy theories.

PERIL is designing e-learning modules and advanced training for probation and pretrial services, law enforcement and other communities engaged in prevention and intervention work related to online radicalization. These e-learning modules include information on signs, symbols and slogans as well as strategies for disengagement and deradicalization.

Risk, Resilience, and Online Radicalization: Parent and Caregivers’ Toolkit for the COVID-19 Era (funded by/in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center). This toolkit 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 toolkit will be launched June 23, 2020 with a webinar and will be followed by an impact study. Tune in here for more details on the webinar in the coming weeks.

Cynthia Miller-IdrissCynthia Miller-Idriss
Director of Research


Brian HughesBrian Hughes
Associate Director


Caleb CainCaleb Cain
Program Associate


Meili CriezisMeili Creizis
Program Associate


Kurt Braddock headshotKurt Braddock
PERIL Fellow


Daniel Koehler headshotDaniel Koehler
PERIL Fellow


Akiko Cooks headshotAkiko Cooks
Parenting Consultant


Shannon Foley Martinez headshotShannon Martinez
Parenting Consultant


Elijah Hawkes HeadshotT. Elijah Hawkes
Education Advisor


Kesa White HeadshotKesa White
Graduate Student Fellow


Education guide cover page

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

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.


January 7: Observing and interpreting far right demonstrations with Joel Busher (Coventry University) and Fabian Virchow (FORENA, HSD - Hochschule Düsseldorf) 

February 11: Normalization to the right: Analyzing the micro-politics of the far right with Ruth Wodak (University of Vienna) 

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)