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Killology is a neologism which attempts to define the study of the psychological and physiological effects of combat on humans. The term was invented by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (ret.) of the Killology Research Group in his 1995 book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.


Grossman's theory, based on the World War II research of S.L.A. Marshall, is that most of the population deeply resists killing another human.

Modern military training allegedly overrides this instinct, by:

  • using man-shaped targets instead of bullseye targets
  • practicing and drilling how soldiers would actually fight
  • dispersing responsibility for the killing throughout the group
  • displacing responsibility for the killing onto an authority figure, i.e. the commanding officer and the military hierarchy. (See the Milgram experiment)
  • By the time of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, says Grossman, 90% of U.S. soldiers would fire their weapons at other people.
  • The act of killing is psychologically traumatic for the killer, even more so than constant danger or witnessing the death of others.

Grossman further argues that violence in television, movies and video games contributes to real-life violence by a similar process of training and desensitization.

In On Combat (Grossman's sequel to On Killing, based on ten years of additional research and interviews) he addresses the psychology and physiology of human aggression.

See also

External links

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