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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Grossman (psychology, West Point) presents three important hypotheses: 1) That humans possess the reluctance to kill their own kind; 2) that this reluctance can be systematically broken down by use of standard conditioning techniques; and 3) that the reaction of "normal" (e.g., non-psychopathic) soliders to having killed in close combat can be best understood as a series of "stages" similar to the ubiquitous Kubler-Ross stages of reaction to life-threatening disease. While some of the evidence to support his theories have been previously presented by military historians (most notably, John Keegan), this systematic examination of the individual soldier's behavior, like all good scientific theory making, leads to a series of useful explanations for a variety of phenomena, such as the high rate of post traumatic stress disorders among Vietnam veterans, why the rate of aggravated assault continues to climb, and why civilian populations that have endured heavy bombing in warfare do not have high incidents of mental illness. This important book deserves a wide readership. Essential for all libraries serving military personnel or veterans, including most public libraries.
Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wash.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
What makes soldiers kill--or not--animates this intriguing survey by a psychologist and former U.S. Army officer. Grossman reveals that only a fraction of soldiers kill during warfare (and feel revulsion when they do); the rest (about 85 percent in World War II) resist by missing the target or refusing to fire. With an eye to the military command's imperative of overcoming that innate resistance, Grossman quotes numerous anecdotes that exemplify the phenomenon and studies that examine it. With such knowledge, the military has implemented training that gets firing rates up to 90 percent of soldiers, but the psychic cost of blazing away for real is heavy. Individually, a killer goes through thrill-remorse-rationalization stages; socially, the killer needs reassurance and if it is not received, will suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome, characteristic of Vietnam veterans. Grossman concludes his findings of "enabling factors" in killing by identifying them at work in the rampant violence afflicting American society. A book that requires some steely fortitude to finish, but once done, On Killing delivers insights on human nature that are both gratifying and repelling. Gilbert Taylor
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Descrizione libro Little, Brown and Company, 1995. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110316330000