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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of…
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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (original 1995; edition 1998)

by Dave Grossman (Author)

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1,2792110,628 (3.92)16
The twentieth century, with its bloody world wars, revolutions, and genocides accounting for hundreds of millions dead, would seem to prove that human beings are incredibly vicious predators and that killing is as natural as eating. But Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a psychologist and U.S. Army Ranger, demonstrates this is not the case. The good news, according to Grossman - drawing on dozens of interviews, first-person reports, and historic studies of combat, ranging from Frederick the Great's battles in the eighteenth century through Vietnam - is that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to kill. In World War II, for instance, only 15 to 25 percent of combat infantry were willing to fire their rifles. The provocative news is that modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning, have learned how to overcome this reluctance. In Korea about 50 percent of combat infantry were willing to shoot, and in Vietnam the figure rose to over 90 percent. The bad news is that by conditioning soldiers to overcome their instinctive loathing of killing, we have drastically increased post-combat stress - witness the devastated psychological state of our Vietnam vets as compared with those from earlier wars. And the truly terrible news is that contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques and - according to Grossman's controversial thesis - is responsible for our rising rates of murder and violence, particularly among the young. In the explosive last section of the book, he argues that high-body-count movies, television violence (both news and entertainment), and interactive point-and-shoot video games are dangerously similar to the training programs that dehumanize the enemy, desensitize soldiers to the psychological ramifications of killing, and make pulling the trigger an automatic response.… (more)
Member:NathanielStoll
Title:On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
Authors:Dave Grossman (Author)
Info:Back Bay Books (1998)
Collections:Your library
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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman (1995)

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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Although some of the statistics and research cited in this book are a bit dated at this point, I enjoyed it. This book gave me some new perspectives and understanding that I hadn't had before now. ( )
  JonOwnbey | May 28, 2020 |
The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society. This seems to be the definitive book on why soldiers do and don't kill in battle. Author's thesis is that most infantry don't shoot because of inbuilt resistance to killing. That seems very hard to believe and the stats, while convincing, aren't verifiable...e.g. 85% of civil war soldiers did not shoot, not because they're scared, but because they have inborn resistance to killing. It's a difficult book to read because of the subject; not fun reading. If you read it, be skeptical. ( )
  buffalogr | May 21, 2019 |
Interesting and daunting. Final chapters really encourage thought about the society we live in and are bringing our children up in. ( )
  SMBrick | Feb 25, 2018 |
The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Does not contain history or strategy or tactics, except as they are collateral to the study of how soldiers kill in war, and how killing affects those soldiers.
  librisissimo | Oct 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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Our first step in the study of killing is to understand the existence, extent, and nature of the average human being's resistance to killing his fellow human.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The twentieth century, with its bloody world wars, revolutions, and genocides accounting for hundreds of millions dead, would seem to prove that human beings are incredibly vicious predators and that killing is as natural as eating. But Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a psychologist and U.S. Army Ranger, demonstrates this is not the case. The good news, according to Grossman - drawing on dozens of interviews, first-person reports, and historic studies of combat, ranging from Frederick the Great's battles in the eighteenth century through Vietnam - is that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to kill. In World War II, for instance, only 15 to 25 percent of combat infantry were willing to fire their rifles. The provocative news is that modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning, have learned how to overcome this reluctance. In Korea about 50 percent of combat infantry were willing to shoot, and in Vietnam the figure rose to over 90 percent. The bad news is that by conditioning soldiers to overcome their instinctive loathing of killing, we have drastically increased post-combat stress - witness the devastated psychological state of our Vietnam vets as compared with those from earlier wars. And the truly terrible news is that contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques and - according to Grossman's controversial thesis - is responsible for our rising rates of murder and violence, particularly among the young. In the explosive last section of the book, he argues that high-body-count movies, television violence (both news and entertainment), and interactive point-and-shoot video games are dangerously similar to the training programs that dehumanize the enemy, desensitize soldiers to the psychological ramifications of killing, and make pulling the trigger an automatic response.

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