The Murderer Next Door
Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill
Based on a wealth of groundbreaking research, a leading psychologist's fascinating investigation of why we are all "wired to kill"
A leading psychologist profiles the killer in us all with this provocative, trailblazing workMy research into murder began in earnest after an astonishing experience with one of my classes of undergraduates. Six years ago, I taught a seminar on human nature that included a session on murder. As an exercise to get the class engaged, I had the students complete a questionnaire asking “Have you ever thought about killing someone?” If the answer turned out to be yes, students were instructed to describe the specific circumstances that had triggered their homicidal thought, their relationship to the victim, and the method of killing that they had fantasized about.
Though we may choose to believe that murderers are pathological misfits or hardened criminals, evolutionary psychologist and acclaimed author David Buss has some sobering news. Based on years of unprecedented studies conducted around the globe and filled with riveting accounts of specific murders, The Murderer Next Door shows that the vast majority of murders are committed by ordinary peopleóand that the impulse to kill, far from being an aberration, has been hardwired by evolution into every human brain, where it awaits triggers that are stunningly familiar. Packed with revelatory information that overturns so much of what we think about ourselves, this riveting look into the underworld of the human mind will enthrall the legions of readers drawn to criminal profiling and true crime.
As I read through their responses back in my office, I became mesmerized. Nothing had prepared me for the outpouring of murderous thoughts my students reported. These were intelligent, well-scrubbed, mostly middle-class kids, not the gang members or troubled runaways one might expect to express violent rage, yet most of them had experienced at least one intense episode in which they had fantasized about killing someone. As I sat in my office analyzing these homicidal fantasies, I realized that carried-out kills were just the tips of the deep psychological iceberg. Could actual murder be only the most flagrant outcome of a fundamental human drive to kill? I wondered. Do our minds really course with homicidal thoughts?
Pursuing this line of research, my lab went on to conduct the largest scientific study ever carried out on why people have homicidal fantasies, and the specific circumstances in which they contemplate killing. This groundbreaking international study involved more than four thousand individuals from San Antonio to Singapore, who were interviewed intensively. According to our findings, 91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one vivid fantasy about killing someone. The answer appeared to be, yes, our minds do pulse with thoughts of murder.
As I contemplated this finding, with the knowledge that the human mind has been exquisitely finely tuned by evolution, I began to suspect that these fantasies were the expressions of deep psychological mechanisms—of evolutionary programming—predisposing us to kill. Six years of near-obsessive subsequent research has led me to the conclusion that yes, the human mind is indeed hard-wired for killing, and that all the many kinds of murder—from crimes of passion to the methodically planned contract kill—follow the same deeply ingrained impulses. There is a fundamental logic to murder, which is ruthless but rational.
One: The Murdering Mind[Bussís] contravening of the conventional wisdom on murders shows promise of becoming the new conventional wisdom. (The Washington Post Book World)
Two: The Evolution of Killing
Three: The Dangerous Game of Mating
Four: When Love Kills
Five: Sexual Predators
Six: Mate Poachers
Seven: Blood and Water
Eight: Status and Reputation
Nine: The Killers Among Us
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