On killing: the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society

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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 thetraining 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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ISBN:
9780316330008
9781497629202
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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID 6148ab81-af4b-b32c-269f-578bc002125c
Grouping Title on killing the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society
Grouping Author grossman dave
Grouping Category book
Last Grouping Update 2020-01-20 22:42:49PM
Last Indexed 2020-01-20 23:39:58PM

Solr Details

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author Grossman, Dave.
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Main Library
collection_catalog Non-Fiction
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display_description

A controversial psychological examination of how soldiers' willingness to kill has been encouraged and exploited to the detriment of contemporary civilian society.

Psychologist and US Army Ranger Dave Grossman writes that the vast majority of soldiers are loath to pull the trigger in battle. Unfortunately, modern armies, using Pavlovian and operant conditioning, have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion.

The mental cost for members of the military, as witnessed by the increase in post-traumatic stress, is devastating. The sociological cost for the rest of us is even worse: Contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army's conditioning techniques and, Grossman argues, is responsible for the rising rate of murder and violence, especially among the young.

Drawing from interviews, personal accounts, and academic studies, On Killing is an important look at the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects the soldier, and of the societal implications of escalating violence.

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publishDate 1995
2014
record_details
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ils:CARL0000080342 Book Books 1st ed. English Little, Brown, c1995. xxvi, 367 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
overdrive:8dedf581-b62a-4737-9b7d-1cdf80d4e8d6 eBook eBook English Open Road Media 2014
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subject_facet Combat -- Psychological aspects
Homicide -- Psychological aspects
Psychology, Military
Violence -- Psychological aspects
Violence -- Social aspects
title_display On killing : the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society
title_full On Killing The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
On killing : the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society / Dave Grossman
title_short On killing :
title_sub the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society
topic_facet Combat
Homicide
Nonfiction
Psychological aspects
Psychology
Psychology, Military
Social aspects
Violence