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On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society Paperback – June 22, 2009

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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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Revised edition (June 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316040932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316040938
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (280 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

More About the Author

LT. COL. DAVE GROSSMAN, U.S. Army (Ret.) Director, Warrior Science Group, www.killology.com: Member, American Board for Certification in Homeland Security; Member, American College of Forensic Examiners Institute

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is an internationally recognized scholar, author, soldier, and speaker who is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of human aggression and the roots of violence and violent crime.

Col. Grossman is a former West Point psychology professor, Professor of Military Science, and an Army Ranger who has combined his experiences to become the founder of a new field of scientific endeavor, which has been termed "killology." In this new field Col. Grossman has made revolutionary new contributions to our understanding of killing in war, the psychological costs of war, the root causes of the current "virus" of violent crime that is raging around the world, and the process of healing the victims of violence, in war and peace.

He is the author of On Killing, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; has been translated into Japanese, Korean, and German; is on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant's required reading list; and is required reading at the FBI academy and numerous other academies and colleges. Col. Grossman co-authored Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence, which has been translated into Norwegian and German, and has received international acclaim. Col. Grossman's most recent book, On Combat, has also placed on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant's Required Reading List and has been translated into Japanese and Korean.

Col. Grossman has been called upon to write the entry on "Aggression and Violence" in the Oxford Companion to American Military History, three entries in the Academic Press Encyclopedia of Violence and numerous entries in scholarly journals, to include the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

He has presented papers before the national conventions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

He has presented to over 100 different colleges and universities worldwide, and has trained educators and law enforcement professionals, in the field of school safety, at the state and regional level, in all 50 states and over a dozen foreign nations.

He helped train mental health professionals after the Jonesboro school shootings, and he was also involved in counseling or court cases in the aftermath of the Paducah, Springfield, Littleton, Virginia Tech, and Nickel Mines Amish school shootings.

He has been an expert witness and consultant in state and Federal courts, to include serving on the prosecution team in UNITED STATES vs. TIMOTHY MCVEIGH.

He has testified before U.S. Senate and Congressional committees and numerous state legislatures, and he and his research have been cited in a national address by the President of the United States.

Col. Grossman is an Airborne Ranger infantry officer, and a prior-service sergeant and paratrooper, with a total of over 23 years experience in leading U.S. soldiers worldwide. He retired from the Army in February 1998 and has devoted himself to teaching, writing, speaking, and research. Today he is the director of the Killology Research Group, and in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks he is on the road almost 300 days a year, training elite military and law enforcement organizations worldwide about the reality of combat.

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Customer Reviews

A good read, very interesting.
A great analysis of war, killing and the psychology behind it using first person accounts of veteran's experiences during war.
Anyone that is planning on serving in the military or law enforcement must read this book.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By William R. Forstchen on November 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've debated for several days after reading "On Killing" whether to post a review or not. I have tremendous respect for the author and his professional credentials but must disagree with his thesis and especially his use of two sources in particular. The author is a devotee of S.L.A. Marshall as were many until two works in the late 1980s cast serious doubts on Marshall's methodology and even his personal character. This blew open while I was a graduate student, specializing in military history and therefore became a topic of intense debate within my circle of fellow students and professors, especially my mentor, who was a British Commando in WWII. The second source I would debate is some of the information the author took from Paddy Griffith's works on the American Civil War.

The underlying thesis of "On Killing" is that mankind is instinctively hard wired Not To Kill. How I wish that was true, and yet our bloody record across recorded history and plenty of evidence even prior to recorded history shows the exact opposite. We are, by instinct "killer angels." Read "War Before Civilization" as but one counter argument. But directly to my concern about the author's sources. "SLAM" Marshall's reputation was built on alleged interviews, hundreds of them, immediately after combat during WWII in which he asserts that at least 75% of combat infantry never fired their weapons, thereby proving that soldiers, at least American soldiers abhor killing and try to avoid doing so even at the risk of their lives.
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106 of 134 people found the following review helpful By G. R. on January 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot recommend this book to anyone. I hoped I would find in it a well-documented, well-thought-out treatment of the subject matter. To my surprise, I found instead a sensationalized polemic advocating the censorship of violent video games.

The author was unconvincing in his arguments. It is clear from his cherry-picking of statistics that he wants us to believe that we live in a society of ever-increasing violence. Unfortunately for Grossman, US Department of Justice statistics contradict this assertion. According to DOJ numbers easily found through a Google search, violent crime rates (including homicide)in America skyrocketed from about 1960 to the early 1990s, but have been falling steadily since then. Would anyone argue that the use of violent video games in the US is falling steadily as well? He also fails to mention that certain societies with arguably even more violent video games than the US have much lower rates of violent crime than we do, for example Japan.

The author seems to rely heavily on a few secondary sources, particularly John Keegan's Face of Battle and Richard Holmes' Acts of War. His few primary sources include articles from Soldier of Fortune magazine; he appears to take them at face value that they are true, accurate first-person accounts of combat experiences. He claims that he himself conducted several hundred interviews of combat veterans, but didn't seem to use their accounts as sources.

His personal bias in on display here, but he seems unaware of it. He lionizes the American soldier. I served as an American soldier for two decades before retiring in 2001. I came to view my fellow soldiers as ordinary fallen beings sometimes performing unpleasant tasks in unpleasant places.
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59 of 76 people found the following review helpful By d.hall on March 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I've owned two printed copies of this book. Very thought-provoking, and a good read, but with one major flaw...LTC Grossman forms much of his work around data that the military has (for many years now) considered to be flawed (at best) and out-right false (at worst). Knowing that Grossman bases so much of his thesis on fictional data involving the percentage of combatants who shot to kill in past conflicts causes one to wonder if his data on, say, PTSD is legitimate, or if he searched hundreds of sources to find a few obscure studies that matched his ideology. A reader should not need to fact-check a book on a subject as profound as this.
For those interested, do a quick online search on this title, check out the now-refuted references he relies heavily on, and note that the military (who funded the original research) debunked it long before the author first published this work.

Summary: Exceptionally written, but by using disproven information to make his case, the author has presented a work of fiction and called it something more.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Rooney on September 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the understanding it contained "case studies". It does not. Apart from meeting veterans in bars and reciting other peoples works and then leaping to conclusions, there are no "Case Studies" as such. I'm sure Col. Grossman has had many veterans on his couch, but as one reviewer pointed out, this is "underbelievable". It is not scientific in any way and is purely anecdotal. I served in the Rhodesian Air Force and it was a simple fact that the terrorists preferred automatic fire. If Grossman knew even a little he would know that the AK-47 does not behave well on full-auto (it climbs radically). It wasn't because these terrorists did not want to kill us and were firing over our heads - it was because they couldn't shoot. They had no problem performing the most unspeakable atrocities, I think it very unlikely they were reluctant to shoot us. And to say the Rhodesian military had no air support is evidence of Grossman's complete ignorance on the topic. On some issues he was correct, but really, the fact that it's easier to kill from a distance is not exactly ground breaking information. Despite what this man who has never seen combat says in his book, it's pretty easy to kill someone who pisses you off by shooting at you and your mates. Oh but then I must be one of the 2% he talks about. Not in my experience. I cannot believe that people hold this tripe in such high regard. As one US soldier told him: "You're a virgin that says he's a expert on sex". Pretty appropriate I think.
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