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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: #23,686 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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This is a book that should be read by everyone. I learned more than I thought possible. Highly, highly recommended.
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By fdesma on June 2 2014
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Author very knowledgeable about subject, Little to no details missing concerning anything about perception of killing. Higly recommended to anyone linked to military or force enforcement.
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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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By Heather on Jan. 29 2014
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must read for anyone working with military. Excellent information for understanding risks of violent video games and movies. Very thought-provoking.
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By Amanda on Aug. 15 2013
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Not much of a reader, but I can't seem to put this one down... It's neat to read the psycholoical view of war.
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By Cat on Aug. 9 2013
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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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