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“On Killing”: Killer Psychology Review


The book of Dave Grossman On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society is dedicated to the research of the psychology of the killer, at war and in a peaceful time. The study has become popular among war veterans and soldiers; however, it covers also the topic of violence in a peaceful society. Learning the psychology of killing is essential not only for understanding the mechanisms of human psychology in circumstances of war or self-defence but also for studying the phenomenon of violence in civilian life.

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Human Resistance and Killology

Being a professor of psychology, Grossman dedicated his work to studying the psychological aspects behind the killing. He says that even though killing is a typical side of human nature, the process of murder is linked with the resistance to killing other humans. Having conducted a profound study on history, he gives examples of soldiers who did not want to kill their enemies, feeling compassion for them. It is a positive factor that shows the humanity of a person. However, this psychological resistance becomes dangerous in times of war or life threat. The author introduces a new term – killology, which is the science of killing. Grossman (2009) mentions that even though there are multiple studies of homicide, nobody conducted profound research on murdering at the battlefield. Thus, the science of killology covers the psychology of killing in both civil and war circumstances.

The Taboo of a Murder and a Combat Trauma

In most societies and religions, killing is taboo, and the book addresses the problem of the lack of psychological aid, which has to be provided to war veterans. The author had meetings with such people, studying their fears. They were related to their concerns of the euphoria and satisfaction that a human feels when killing another human being. The professor explains that this is a typical reaction when euphoria changes into empathy for the dead person and the feeling of regret, grief, and denial. The author has found that a human who killed needs to come through a life-long process of rationalization and acceptance. Grossman (2009) concludes that if veterans fail to continue this psychological work, it results in post-traumatic stress that may cause mental disorders for the rest of their lives. The last critical stage in addressing the issue is the acceptance of society, which is essential to return war veterans to normal life. Thus, killing causes a combat trauma that needs to be addressed and understood not only by soldiers but also by society to be able to help them in further civil life.

The Importance of Studying Killology

Grossman (2009) studies the reasons why soldiers perform law firing rates on the battlefield. Having considered the methods of psychological preparation during the Second World War, Vietnam, and Korean wars, the author provides practical techniques for increasing the productivity of soldiers. In the end, the author addresses the issue of homicide, the number of which is rising. He links it to the depiction of human suffering in cartoons, movies, and video games, which in human minds gets connected with a pleasant atmosphere and fun. He is very critical of exploiting the images of violence and proposes banning them as an effective way to reduce the number of homicides. Thus, studying killology is essential not only to increase the performance of soldiers but also to understand the methods of fighting violence in society.


In his book On Killing, Grossman introduces the science of killology, which is the study of psychological and physiological mechanisms that are involved in the process of killing. Learning this science is crucial not only for practical work of militaries but also for civilians, who are concerned with the violence around them. Spreading knowledge about killology will promote raising a new generation of people who can assist in stopping the propagation of violence in society.


Grossman, Dave. (2009). On killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co.

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