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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society [Paperback]

Dave Grossman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 22 2009
The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young.

Upon its initial publication, ON KILLING was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come.

Frequently Bought Together

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
Price For All Three: CDN$ 47.31

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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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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killing has a high price Sept. 6 2009
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly, highly recommended. July 8 2014
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting June 2 2014
By fdesma
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Divergent and Informative April 13 2014
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars must read Jan. 29 2014
By Heather
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Aug. 15 2013
By Amanda
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book Aug. 9 2013
By Cat
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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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
There were a lot of interesting facts in this book and I liked how the author compared soldiers willingness to kill in different wars. I thought it was well written as well.
Published 2 days ago by Kelsi
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous read. It has revolutionary ideas about combat ...
A marvelous read. It has revolutionary ideas about combat. It is something to think about when reading history. I am dazzled by the ideas put forward in the book.
Published 1 month ago by Joseph Cummins
4.0 out of 5 stars Debunking the myth of killing as glamourous.
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... Read more
Published 18 months ago by william
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
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... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars On Killing is about facing up and making changes
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. Read more
Published 21 months ago by James Strachan
5.0 out of 5 stars on killing
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. Read more
Published 22 months ago by owen victor st.hilaire
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
A surprising book. Not what you would expect. Human beings are not the cold hearted killers that many believe. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2009 by Harold Bihun
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