This paper provides a theoretical analysis of suicide attacks and defection. First, decision processes of potential attackers are examined from an economist’s perspective. The results are then applied to insights from behavioural economics and psychology. We derive conditions
under which agents decide to become suicide bombers—or to announce an attack and defect later. Taking account of hyperbolic discounting we show why the decision to commit a suicide attack can be time-inconsistent and what internal manipulation mechanisms (arising from cognitive dissonance
and terror management) and external manipulation mechanisms (employed by terrorist organizations and governments) might prevent or foster time-inconsistency.