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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Paperback – Jun 22 2009


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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society + On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace + Warrior Mindset: Mental Toughness Skills for a Nation's Peacekeepers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 2 edition (June 22 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316040932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316040938
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.9 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

A former army Ranger and paratrooper, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman taught psychology at West Point and was the professor of Military Science at Arkansas State University.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER#1 HALL OF FAME on Sept. 6 2009
Format: Paperback
Grossman has written a book documenting the psychological cost of killing. As a military, but not combat veteran, he likens his study to "a virgin studying sex". That's true, but a researcher doesn't need to experience something to do a good job researching it. Grossman suggests that humans are naturally loath to kill others, especially in hand-to-hand combat. He backs this up with a lot of data showing that indeed, most armies have had most of their soldiers avoid shooting. The dramatic data from the Civil War stood out most clearly to me. Lines of men, not far from each other, shooting accurate rifles, produced relatively minor casualties. Because most men didn't shoot, pretended to shoot, or shot over the heads of their enemies.

What surprises me is how little thought Grossman gives to evolutionary theories of killing and aggression. He briefly quotes Konrad Lorenz's work on aggression, but there are much more modern sources of aggression that could easily bolster his arguments (e.g., young men not wanting to lose face or status as a mating tactic). There is very interesting research to suggest that combat soldiers had more children than non-combat soldiers, despite their higher levels of mental problems. This suggests that the prestige of being in combat lends itself well to the Darwinian mating game. In other words, the brave soldier gets the girl, the coward gets nothing. Grossman's data is almost entirely either qualitative or quoted from other sources. This is why I gave the book four stars. As a scholarly effort, this book sadly falls short of its potential to be an absolute masterpiece in the field (at the same level of the book he frequently quotes- Dyer's "War").
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I am a keen student of history and have long been interested in the Marshal studdies and the implications of same. I had previously read some of the authers that Mr.Grossman uses as sources, ( Gwyn Dyer and John Keegan ) and so was very familier with his refferences. This book should , I belive be read by all north americans as it speaks directly to some of the key societal problems we are encountering to day.
It is well written, clear and to the point. It is as unbiased as one can be when a soldier writes about war and killing. If you are interested in the real trade of the soldier or the political and social sciences this is a must read.
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By Cat on Aug. 9 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a great book. Lots of facts, and very informative. The reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because at times I found it a little heavy with technical information.
I learned many things, and I have to say this book changed the way I see certain things. It succeeded in opening my eyes to the things I used to consider normal. This is not a book speaking against violence; it speaks against the wrongful use of it and where the lines lay between right and wrong. I have suggested it to all those around me.
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By Amazon Customer on March 13 2013
Format: Paperback
Talk about real tings, and might be scarry for the wannabe people who want to become soldier minded, but talk about real things and is an excellent read for wife or man of army members to get to understand what the other one is going through .
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Well written psychological analysis of the programming required en mass of the military to kill.Even more importantly what modern media is doing to desensitize our society to the act of killing.Well worth reading.
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Very well written in an engaging style. He gathers resources in a compelling way, and presents his startling conclusions in a way that gives them extra power.Grossman's analytical powers are excellent. This book is extremely helpful in understanding our current social situation vis a vis weaponry in society. He also poits to cultural causes for the dilemma.
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Provides a much-needed alternative perspective of combat, training and military psychology.
Anyone working with veterans or active service personnel, this book should be standard reading.
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