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

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by Dave Grossman

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.

An eye-opening psychological study of killing in wartime - why soldiers must be trained to kill, how killing affects them, and what the military experience with killing means for society at large. Drawing on dozens of interviews, first-person reports and studies of combat soldiers, Grossman shows that almost all humans have an innate aversion to killing.